MEMBERS of a boating community in Tonbridge who were facing eviction from their homes on the River Medway last weekend are ‘filled with hope’ after they were given another four weeks to argue their case to stay.
The Barden Road Boaters had been informed, via a letter from the landowner’s solicitors last Monday (October 31), that there would be an attempt to remove them at 5pm on Saturday (November 5).
However after negotiations between both parties’ legal representatives, the residents of the ‘Venice of Tonbridge’ received another letter on November 3 explaining that they would have another four weeks until the eviction.
“It’s a great relief to know we have more time,” said Helen Kirk, one of the 13 narrow boat owners who added: “The residents of the Boatyard want a peaceful and fair result and to continue to stay at the Boatyard amongst the local community.”
It is understood that the owners of the land, the Mockford family, are keen to move the boaters, possibly so that they can sell the property to developers. A plan that is unpopular amongst Barden residents.
Co-chair of the Barden Resident’s Association, Mark Hood, said: “They have continually pushed development plans against resident’s wishes. The sensible thing they can do is accept what the council have said about the unlikelihood of development due to the flood risk. They get a steady income from the boaters rent, so why not run that as a business and try to develop it further.
“We would be devastated if the boating community are forced to leave. They are an asset to the area and boating is one of the few ways that people on low incomes can afford to live round here.”
Such local support has been ‘heart-warming and humbling’, said Ms Kirk, who describes the atmosphere of the boatyard being ‘filled with hope’ upon the recent news.
But while the boaters are relieved by the extra weeks, the spectre of eviction in December still hangs over them. “We are still worried since there are no moorings to go to from here. Hopefully it will be resolved within the next four weeks. It would be awful and a great upheaval to leave family and friends to move,” she explained.
The Times attempted to contact Mr Mockford and his representatives for a comment, but was unable to get a response before going to press.