People who live in houseboats by Teddington Lock have spoken out about attempts to evict them, claiming shanty boats were ruining their otherwise idyllic way of life.
Most of the people living in houseboats by Teddington Lock, some for more than five years, have obtained licences from the Environment Agency, and those moored on public land cannot be evicted, despite attempts by authorities.
Richmond Council is seeking powers to shift the boat dwellers by introducing a bylaw, but under the 1932 Thames Conservancy Act people are allowed to moor for "for a reasonable time" - though there is no legal definition of what that was.
The river folk said power to remove them from the Thames would conflict with current laws including the council’s own Duty of Care 2009, which states "bargee travellers" should not be left homeless, as well as the 2010 Equality Act that places a duty on all public bodies to prevent discrimination.
Miranda Gray, an IT analyst and writer, who has lived on the river for a year, said the stretch of the Thames was the friendliest place to live in London.
She said: "The people that live on this stretch of water are a community, much like any other elsewhere.
"We help each other out, and there is respect for people wanting to live their lives in their own way."
Complaints from locals about large shanty boats on that stretch of river were met with agreement from the rest of the boat community dwellers, who often clean up the towpath after walkers.
Ms Gray said: "It’s unfair to tar us all with the same brush because of a few disruptive elements - we hate the big shanty boats as much as everyone else does and would be glad to see them go.
"It gives the rest of us a bad name.
"The majority of this community are just regular people who have made a lifestyle choice to live on the river."
Richmond Council said it continued to work with other agencies to remove the boats.
A council spokesman said: "This is why the council continues to pursue the introduction of a bylaw, which if approved, would give us much more appropriate and effective powers."
Passing the bylaw would leave the river community homeless and struggling to hold down their jobs, they said.
Ms Gray said: "To continually be bombarded with the council’s empty threats and bullying tactics when no law has been broken, constitutes harassment that shouldn’t be allowed to continue."
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