THE ‘Venice of Tonbridge’ is still afloat after another eviction threat failed to materialise.
The 13 residents of the Barden Boatyard were told, via a letter from the solicitors of landowner Mr Mockford, that they must vacate the premises by Friday December 2 –four weeks after the original November 5 eviction date they had been given. The letter claimed a representative of the solicitors would be coming to check they had moved on.
Yet, according to the moorings manager Phil Hibbs, no one turned up and the boaters are still there. Mr Hibbs holds tenancy contracts with the boaters and he then pays the landowners for using the space. He does not live in the boatyard himself.
“It didn’t happen. They were sent the notice but nothing happened and their solicitors have now gone quiet,” he said.
He described the whole situation as a ‘tangled mess’, adding that the boaters themselves had launched lawsuits against Mr Mockford. They claim that on the morning of Saturday October 8, a group of ‘intimidating men’ changed the locks on their gate and padlocked them inside. A process they regard as illegal.
Rumours began circulating that the landowner’s motivation for attempting to get the boating community to move elsewhere stems from a desire to build a housing development within the site.
Mr Hibbs, who has been on the site for 25 years, is sceptical of the area’s potential for development. “He would never be allowed to build there. It’s not big enough, it is right next to the river so it’s a huge flood risk. It’s completely unviable,” he said.
The moorings manager remains ‘confident’ the boaters will be able to stay. The Times contacted Mr Mockford’s solicitors, and they replied that it would be ‘inappropriate’ to comment on the case.