Unauthorised moorings in the borough

We are aware of an increase in boats moored without permission along the River Thames.

Please note that the river has a complex range of landowners:

  • Private landowners

  • The Environment Agency (EA)

  • Network Rail

  • Elmbridge Borough Council (only in a minority of cases)

What are the legal implications?

The law allows:

  • Within the Public Right of Navigation, boat owners can stop on private land for a reasonable period of time, if they have the landowners’ necessary consent. The Environmental agency’s policy defines 24H as a reasonable time. Elmbridge Borough Council follows this policy.

  • Boat owners can stay on privately-owned land for a longer period than 24 hours if they have the landowner’s consent to do so.

  • Only the landowners that the boats are moored on can take action against an authorised mooring.

  • Existing byelaws on Elmbridge-owned land are only effective on council-owned land. They do not extend to illegal mooring on private land.

 What can Elmbridge Borough Council do in case of illegal moorings?

  • The council has no powers to move/evict boats which are not moored on council-owned land

  • The council is working closely with Surrey Police, Surrey Fire and Rescue Service and the EA who are taking action against a number of unauthorised moored boats.

What does the Environment Agency do to prevent and deal with illegal moorings?

  • Undertakes regular patrols and boat registration checks in partnership with Surrey Police and Elmbridge Borough Council, including boat safety certification and insurance.

  • Will seek to enforce and prosecute boat owners who failed to provide the above documentation.

  • Will seek to take action against any incidents of pollution in the river that are reported to them. Any dumping of waste into the river can be reported to the EA on their hotline 0800 807060 to investigate. 

  • Will seek to take action against owners of any vessel that has sunk and not been removed.

What steps can be taken in case of illegal mooring?

  • Anyone who suspects a boat is moored to land without consent, should first contact the owner of that land to ensure that they are aware and can take appropriate action to resolve the matter.

  • The landowners can consider applying to the courts for a possession order, or other powers under their jurisdiction, to compel boat owners to move their vessel.

  •   Report ASB (anti-social behaviour) associated with moorings.

The sanctions for repeated trespass offences are increasingly stringent. A possession order is the most effective method for dealing with this issue and is the Environment Agency’s recommended approach.

How to report any non-urgent matter relating to the river

To report any other non urgent matter relating to the river please contact or telephone 03708 506 506 during office hours.

Partnership working to find a long term solution

A stakeholder consultation on the current issues was carried out over the summer 2019. Elmbridge councillors considered the feedback on 18 September. The full report can be accessed through the link below: 

Spelthorne Council has similarly considered the same issue at the meeting of its Cabinet on 6 November 2019. The full report can be accessed through the links below.

 Steps taken following the stakeholder consultation

  • Members from both councils agreed that officers will work with members and neighbouring boroughs, Surrey County Council, Surrey Police and the Environment Agency to consider a consistent way forward, with a report back to the respective Cabinets with any recommendations in due course.         

  • The Environment Agency is currently engaged in procuring the services of a specialist company to help manage boats mooring wherever it owns land along the non-tidal River Thames. The land owned by the EA includes the following sites within the Elmbridge boundaries: Molesey (Hurst Park Wharf), Sunbury (towpath) and Walton (Gridley Miskins and towpath, and Desborough Island).        

  • Subject to the quality and affordability of services, arrangements should be in place before the Easter Bank Holiday weekend of 10-12 April.        

  • The appointed company will be responsible for managing the Environmental Agency’s designated mooring sites wherever it owns land and where charges apply for stays of more than 24 hours.         

  • The appointed company will also be responsible for managing boats moored outside of The Environmental Agency’s land and designated mooring sites, where it does not encourage mooring, but is happy to allow it for stays of 24 hours only as part of the public right of navigation.

To sum up, the Environmental Agency wants all boats to be moored in accordance with any applicable terms and conditions which may need to apply to prevent overstaying, or be moored with its knowledge and consent (i.e., during strong stream conditions), or to be facing action either by the company or itself as navigation authority and landowner (or both), to ensure overstaying boats are moved by their owners/masters without delay.

Current information on unauthorised moorings

  • Cigarette Island/Albany Reach/Ditton Reach
    Elmbridge has introduced a 1-year pilot scheme to manage moorings on all of its land adjacent to the River Thames to prevent long-term mooring, but encourages short stay (24 hour) leisure mooring (as per Public Right of Navigation). All 3 sites are currently clear of any overstaying boats. To register to moor please visit Where 2 Moor.

  • Hurst Park
    2 vessels were removed by the EA from Molesey Lock’s short-stay moorings site near Ferry Lane. All vessels currently moored at this location are overstaying and are subject to enforcement action by the Environment Agency.  Following complaints received by members of the public, Surrey Fire and Rescue Service undertook fire safety inspections of 4 vessels moored on the Thames within Elmbridge Borough Council. 
     As a result of these inspections, conducted under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, enforcement and prohibition notices were served on the owner of all 4 vessels. 
    Surrey Fire and Rescue Service are currently working with partner agencies and the owner of the vessels to achieve a satisfactory and safe solution.’

  • Cherry Orchard Gardens 
    The council is aware of the issues at this stretch of the Thames in Molesey and is working with partners to secure a long-term solution to this area:

    On 8 August 2019 the Planning Compliance Team issued 9  Enforcement Notices in relation to the moorings located north west of Cherry Orchard Gardens and adjacent to the towpath. The subsequent appeals against the Notices were invalidated by The Planning Inspectorate on 13 January 2020. As a result, the Notices came into effect on that day. The Notices require the use of the land for the permanent mooring of a boat(s) to cease, and any structures, fencing or enclosures, which have been erected in association with the use of the Land for the permanent mooring of a boat(s), to be removed. The period for compliance is one calendar month, i.e. by 13 February 2020.

    The Council have been notified that some of those served with the Notices are challenging the decision by The Planning Inspectorate to invalidate their appeals, as such, the Council are placing on hold further enforcement action in relation to these Notices. However, this suspension of action will be regularly reviewed. As of the 14 February 2020, 2 of the 9 Enforcement Notices have been partially complied with. Those who are not challenging the decision by The Planning Inspectorate are expected to comply with the notice in full and we will be undertaking further action.

    The Environment Agency has also served relevant byelaw warning notices regarding the removal of vegetation, shrubs and trees and potential offences under the Thames Navigation Licensing & General Byelaws 1993.
    Surrey County Council are aware of the fences across the public highway and will investigate.  However, they prioritise all reports carefully and deal with immediate and significant safety issues first. Currently, due to high numbers of reports, they are only able to deal with priority 1 and 2 issues. Priority 3, 4 and 5 issues will still be recorded and if resources allow, staff or volunteers will investigate. Please see their Maintenance and Enforcement Priority Statement which sets out their priorities 1-5. See also Surrey County Council - report a problem on a right of way.   

  • Walton Towpath (near Xcel Leisure Complex)
    The council is aware of the issues at this stretch of the Thames in Molesey and is working with partners to secure a long-term solution to this area.

Services by A-Z