Thorpe Island boat dwellers told they face eviction

Thorpe Island resident Gareth Jervis who lives on his boat and has received letters from the Broads

Thorpe Island resident Gareth Jervis who lives on his boat and has received letters from the Broads Authority telling him to move on.PHOTO BY SIMON FINLAY - Credit: SIMON FINLAY

Boat dwellers living on an island on the Broads have been told they face eviction if they do not leave within the next three weeks.

Forty-one letters have been sent to residents on Thorpe Island, on the outskirts of Norwich in Thorpe St Andrew, demanding they move on or face court action, as a long-running saga over the site approaches a climax.

However, some of them have vowed not to leave, paving the way for further clashes over the issue.

The land has been at the centre of a lengthy legal wrangle between landowner Roger Wood and the Broads Authority over its historic planning rights.

The case has already been before two planning inspectors, with a High Court judge deeming the development unlawful and the Court of the Appeal refusing permission to appeal that decision.

The latest development has seen the Broads Authority write to those living on 25 boats on the island to say it is a criminal offence to fail to comply with the enforcement notice now covering the whole site.

Some have been given until tomorrow, others until December 18, to stop any planning breach – in short, move out of the basin – or the authority will apply to the courts for an injunction and eviction notices could be issued.

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Jacquie Burgess, chairman of the Broads Authority and member of the planning committee, said the authority was legally obliged to serve the letters before an injunction so people had the opportunity to comply prior to any other action.

But Gareth Jervis, 47, who moved onto a boat in the basin at Thorpe Island four-and-a-half years ago for a lifestyle change, said he feels unfairly treated by the Broads Authority.

'I think the Broads Authority are trying to bully us to move,' he said. 'They just want to scare us with the legal costs and financial threats, to try to price us out. But we are not going anywhere.'

Landowner Mr Wood, who maintains planning permission remains from previous owners, will get an oral hearing at the Court of Appeal on February 2 next year to appeal the latest ruling.

He was previously granted permission for 25 boats, but turned down that offer because he said the demands wanted in return – costs and destruction of habitat – were unreasonable.

There is concern from those on the island that the new letters preceded the court hearing in February.

The dispute has cost the authority £90,000 to date, with an extra £20,000 now earmarked for the next phase.

Those living opposite the seven-acre site on the River Yare have previously spoken out about their 'nightmare' of living close by.

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