Unauthorised moorings in the borough

We are aware of an increase in boats moored without permission along the River Thames. Within the Public Right of Navigation there is deemed a right for boat owners to stop on land, subject to the necessary landowners consent, for a reasonable period. The Borough follows the Environment Agency’s policy that 24 hours is considered a reasonable time within normal navigation. Boats are entitled to stay for longer however, provided they have the landowner’s consent to do so.

The River has a complex range of land owners, and the law only allows the owners of the land that the boats are moored on to take action against an unauthorised mooring. This would include any potential byelaw which would only be effective on Elmbridge-owned land. Land owners could include the Environment Agency, Network Rail or in a minority of cases Elmbridge Borough Council. At this point the landowner could consider applying to the Courts for a possession order, or other powers under their jurisdiction, to compel the boat owners to move their vessels. The sanctions for repeated trespass offences are increasingly stringent, so this is the most effective method for dealing with this issue, and is the Environment Agency’s recommended approach.

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, should they choose to do so.

Elmbridge Borough Council has no powers to move/evict boats which are not moored on Elmbridge owned land but continues to work with other agencies to try and resolve this issue. We are working closely with Surrey Police and the EA who are taking action against a number of unauthorised moored boats on their land.

The Environment Agency (EA) will also seek to take action against any incidents of pollution in the river that are reported to them. If you witness any dumping of waste into the river you can report to the EA on their hotline 0800 807060 and the EA will investigate. 

The Environment Agency working in partnership with other agencies including Surrey Police and Elmbridge Council undertakes regular patrols and boat registration checks including unauthorised moored boats. All boats are required to have valid registration including boat safety certification and insurance. If boats are found not to comply, then the Environment Agency will seek to enforce and will prosecute. The EA will seek to take action against any owner of any vessel which has sunk and has failed to be removed. 

In most instances, the issues arising from moorings for the community are minimal. Surrey Police have been made aware and will be monitoring regularly.

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

Elmbridge councillors considered the feedback from the stakeholder consultation on the current issues faced by residents and stakeholders 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.

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 it manage boats mooring wherever it owns land along the non-tidal River Thames. This includes a number of locations within Elmbridge Borough Council’s boundaries. The Environment Agency has previously used companies to help it manage its designated mooring sites where charges applied for stays of more than 24 hours. Within Elmbridge’s boundaries this includes sites in Molesey (Hurst Park Wharf), Sunbury (towpath) and Walton (Gridley Miskins and towpath, and Desborough Island).
This time, it also wants the appointed company to be responsible for managing boats moored outside of its 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.
This is a significant change. It 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 (ie, 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.

Subject to the quality and affordability of the responses received, the Environment Agency hopes to make an appointment and have all necessary arrangements in place before the Easter Bank Holiday weekend of 10-12 April.

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 encourage short stay (24hr) leisure mooring with all 3 sites currently clear of any overstaying boats. To register to moor please visit Where 2 Moor.

  • Hurst Park
    The Environment Agency has removed two vessels from Molesey Lock, where they were moored without permission, to its short-stay moorings site near Ferry Lane at Hurst Park. The Environment Agency currently permits boats to moor here, and at all its other short-stay moorings sites, free of charge but for 24 hours only. All vessels currently moored at this location are overstaying and are subject to enforcement action by the Environment Agency. 

  • 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 nine enforcement notices for a number of moorings located north west of Cherry Orchard Gardens and adjacent to the towpath. The notices were initially appealed, however on the 13January 2020, the Planning Inspectorate turned away the appeals as ‘not valid’. This means that the enforcement notices issued on the 8 August 2019 come into effect on the 13January 2020. 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, ie by the 13 February 2020. The Planning Compliance Team will visit the site on or around the 14 February, to ensure the notices have been complied with.
    The council has now served persons in the vicinity of Cherry Orchard Gardens with a Community Protection Notice (Warning Letter) to cease any further removal of vegetation and trees and also not to add any further fences or buildings to the riverbank. If persons fail to comply with the above requirements within the timescales given, then Elmbridge Borough Council will consider serving a Community Protection Notice (CPN) which could lead to a fixed penalty notice or risk prosecution.
    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. At the present time, 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.


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