THE FUTURE of the Barden Boatyard in Tonbridge looks set to be decided in March, with both parties taking the other to court.
According to Helen Kirk, one of the boaters, landowner Brian Mockford has accused them of trespassing as he seeks to gain a repossession order. The group of boat owners, who have lived on the River Medway for 25 years have been summoned to a hearing at Hastings County Court on March 13 and are currently putting together statements to defend themselves against the accusations.
The following day, the landowner will appear at Brighton County Court in relation to an ongoing legal dispute over the lease agreement with the Mooring Manager Phil Hibbs.
Mr Hibbs does not live in the boatyard himself but holds tenancy contracts with the residents which he then pays Mr Mockford for using the space.
The long running saga between the 13 residents of the ‘Venice of Tonbridge’ and the landowner began in October.
Ms Kirk claims she and her Barden neighbours were told there was going to be a change of their tenancy arrangements on October 8. On that day they were visited by representatives of Mr Mockford, accompanied by what she describes as ‘a group of intimidating men’.
She accused them of changing the locks and chaining up the entrance gate, locking them inside the boatyard.
The boat owners claim they were then given a list of updated terms and were told they had to sign they were accepting them within two weeks or face eviction. These new rules would end their access to electricity, water, their on-land toilet and washing facilities, as well as their shed storage and garden areas, which were covered under their previous agreement.
Since then, the boaters have twice been told they must leave, but no one has attended to ensure their departure, contrary to threats from Mr Mockford’s solicitors.
Ms Kirk said the group were ‘keeping positive’ adding: “We believe that the judge will treat us fairly and listen to our story.
“It’s stressful but we are getting loads of support from the Barden Residents’ Association and the local community.”