The boats at Cherry Orchard gardens in West Molesey, Surrey, have all been served with formal ‘wreck’ notices which, under Section 16 of the Thames Conservancy Act 1932, gives the Environment Agency the power to remove and destroy the boats - by blowing them up if necessary!
However, tomorrow’s operation will see the boats lifted out by a barge-mounted crane, crushed and removed to the Environment Agency’s depot at Sunbury for disposal. An Environment Agency patrol launch will also be on hand to manage river traffic.
Barry Russell, the Environment Agency’s Waterways Manager for the non-tidal River Thames, said:
Irresponsible owners have allowed a number of boats to sink in this location. They then walked away from their responsibility to raise and remove them themselves, leaving the rest of the River Thames boating community to cover the costs through the boat registration fees they pay us, and which funds our service.
To maximise the cost-effectiveness of the operation, the River Thames Waterways team has secured the services of the barge-mounted crane and its crew from the Environment Agency’s Operations Management team. It is normally used to support engineering projects such as the creation of flood defences. This represents a considerable saving compared to using external contractors. It will also seek to remove as many wrecks as possible until the barge is required for other duties elsewhere on the river.
The boats we are removing are not a pollution risk, and are not obstructing the main navigation. These are the two criteria which would see us intervene as a matter of urgency. But they are an eyesore and have blighted the local riverscape for some considerable time, and enough is enough.
Despite our best efforts to trace and encourage the owners to do the right thing themselves, they clearly have no intention of doing so. Consequently, having followed due legal process, we are taking charge of the situation.
Where we can, we will seek to recover our costs from the owners. They can expect a hefty bill which, if they had maintained their boats properly and not allowed them to sink in the first place, they would have avoided.