Adverse possession overturned on appeal

posted 19 Dec 2017, 09:57 by asdfg asdfg   [ updated 19 Dec 2017, 09:57 ]

Waterman's Park update

posted 19 Dec 2017, 09:55 by asdfg asdfg

Waterman's Park article in RBOA 'Soundings' magazine

posted 29 Nov 2016, 04:24 by asdfg asdfg   [ updated 29 Nov 2016, 04:27 ]

Waterman’s Park, Brentford

by David DeVere


Some members will be aware of a long-running dispute between the local authority and the boaters at Waterman’s Park, Brentford. Further to legal research carried out by residents, it is very clear that the Port of London Authority cannot own any part of the bed of the Thames, because the Crown was absolutely prohibited from disposing of its land on the bed of the river since 1702 and consequently since 1856/57 the Port of London and its predecessors has only obtained navigational control of the river. David reports as follows:


Apparently I am the only one who has done his research with the ownership issue in dispute back to the Reign of Henry II. That research runs to investigations in the National Archives and the Metropolitan Archives at Farringdon. The archives are stuffed with family tree researchers looking through old deeds and topping up their pensions with research income. One man was examining council drainage officers work books (most odd).


To summarise:

The Crown after the Napoleonic Wars sought to put its administration on a sound footing by tidying up Royal Offices granted over the years.


Lord Liverpool was apparently entitled to income from cargo going through the Pool of London and many of the Crown Offices were hereditary, passed down in families as a nice little earner. Britain was to be put on a national diet to remove the administrative flab.


The City of London had been charging wharf owners for the construction of frontages and levying wharfinger fees as well as renting out mooring points in the stream (much 111cc landing slots at Heathrow). In 1843 the Crown took the City to court and stated that the City had never had ownership of the bed of the Thames and therefore could not charge for constructing works over that bed below High Tide. The Crown stated that the City were merely the navigational authority and had to see to the obstructions in the Thames, with no power to acquire or own the bed through long control. The City naturally stated that because it had long controlled the Thames it had acquired ownership of the bed.


The Information stated,

‘That by the Royal prerogative, the ground and soil of the coasts and shores of the sea around this kingdom, and the ground and soil of every port, haven, and arm of the sea, creek, pool, and navigable river thereof, into which the sea ebbs and flows, and also the shore lying between high-water mark and low-watermark, at ordinary titles, belong to Her Majesty; and Her Majesty has a right of empire or government over the navigable rivers of this kingdom.... and


that the duty of the mayor, bailiff or conservator is, to see to the navigation of the river Thames, and to prevent the erection of obstructions and nuisances in the river, and also to regulate the fishing thereof. And that the mayor did not, in virtue of such office, take, or acquire any estate or interest, in the ground and soil of the bed or shores between high and low water mark,


but that the Corporation have of late claimed, and now claim to be entitled, not only to exercise, by the mayor or his sufficient deputies, the office of bailiff or conservator of the river Thames, but have also claimed, and now claim to be seized of, or otherwise well entitled to, the freehold of the ground, bed, or soil of the river, and of the shores thereof between high and low water mark, within the same limits, in which the mayor exercises the office of bailiff or conservator, and have assumed to exercise.. such acts of ownership over the soil, as are beyond the power and authority of the bailiff and conservator,.., and such as imply that the mayor, commonalty, and citizens are, or claim to be seized of the freehold of the ground and soil of the river between high and low water marks, and they have lately taken upon themselves to make grants to parties possessed of wharfs or lands on the banks of the river, or to such other persons as they think fit, giving them license to embank the strand and soil of the river, arid build thereon, between high and low water mark...


So there it is.


This argument is now used by the PLA some 150 years later. After much negotiation the City and the Crown settled the dispute. After 1856/57 the newly formed body of The Conservators of the River Thames would control the construction and activity on the Thames, take any income from that control and apply it by way of a special Fund for the improvement of the navigation. The Fund was to be kept separate to prevent the City of London from taking the money for its own uses.


One third of the river income from building permits was to be paid over to the Crown. But what the Crown did not do was pass ownership of the Crown’s bed to the Conservators or any of their successors.


It must not be forgotten that much of the Thames bed between High and Low Water had been granted to manorial owners on the banks (for example to the Bishop of London) as the river side land was really no use without ownership of the foreshore lands. The several lords of the manors used the frontages for their own wharves in the days when the roads were impassable and cargo was mainly sent up and down the rivers of the kingdom.


But I digress.


The Thames Conservancy Act could never pass away Crown land to the newly formed Conservators of the River Thames, as the Crown was prohibited by the Crown Lands Act 1702 from disposing of its lands, either by deed or by statute. Parliament put a stop to Queen Anne and her predecessors ‘Selling Off England By The Pound’ (Genesis). The same 1702 Act is in force today and prevents the modern Crown Estate from disposing of Crown assets, save on a lease that will return the land to the Crown after 125 years at most.


Recently the Land at Kensington Palace Gardens Act required the suspension of the 1702 Act in express words to permit the sale of land previously owned by Edward IV near Kensington Gardens to a hotel chain. The legislation further required the Secretary of State to sign off on the sale. The sale of Crown land requires a special act of parliament to be effective and that legislation must specifically suspend or prevent the effect of the 1702 legislative prohibition against disposal.


So neither the Conservators nor their successors, the PLA have ever (by long control or otherwise) obtained freehold or lesser ownership of any part of the bed of the River Thames.


Soundings September/October 2016

Page 7

OPLAC's response to the PLA Mooring Guidlines

posted 24 Nov 2016, 08:45 by asdfg asdfg   [ updated 24 Nov 2016, 09:07 ]

The PLA's document that went out in late 2016 for consultation is here.

Our response is here.

OPLAC Byelaw Submission

posted 11 Sep 2015, 14:53 by asdfg asdfg   [ updated 11 Sep 2015, 14:56 ]

Below is OPLAC's submission relating to the PLA's proposed bylaw changes (the changes themselves can be viewed here


Dear Mr Knight

 Thank you for recent invitation to informally comment on your proposed changes to byelaws.   We appreciate the opportunity to do this and I hope you will make use of our comments to moderate what perhaps is an initial over-reaction by the PLA to one incident.  I spoke briefly to your CEO Robin Mortimer about these changes at the Thames Vision meeting last Friday; he confirmed my impression that the changes arose from the Isleworth squat boat incident in April. 

 Therefore I have suggested some wording that might deal with such incidents by using a scalpel rather than a sledgehammer, with the benefit that it might no longer appear to some as the beginning of an assault on the Public's Right to Navigate the tidal Thames.  You will find that DBA The Barge Association have similar concerns and have submitted almost (but not quite) identical comments.


(PLA proposed amendments in red):


15 The master of a vessel must not, without the permission of the harbourmaster, cause or permit the vessel:

(b) to obstruct or interfere with navigation, any public access to the Thames or the access to a dock entrance;

 We would be interested to know the purpose and thinking behind this change.  On the face of it this would seem to turn a simple and sensible byelaw (not to obstruct dock entrances) into something with much wider range.  What is meant my "any public access to the Thames"?  For example does it mean the public: 

·        Hand launching a canoe from the riverbank?

·        Sitting on the riverbank with their toes in the water?

·        At low tide walking along the foreshaw without being obstructed by a moored vessel?

·        Feeding the ducks from the riverbank?

·        Simply standing on the river bank with a view of the river unimpeded by a moored vessel?

 We do not consider that any of these reasons would warrant a permanent ban on any vessel temporarily mooring to the river bank. 

 We  believe this new amendment arises from a recent case of a vessel squatting on the riverbank at Isleworth.  We would of course support the removal of squatting vessels.  However the amendment as worded seems to be a sledgehammer aimed at a nut.  It is already very difficult for barges to find moorings on the tidal Thames in the event of an emergency or if caught out by the tide.  The new byelaw would prevent or hinder not just long term squat moorings but also any temporary mooring.  Can we suggest the addition of "for a period in excess of 48 hours" to at least the "any public access" part?  This would achieve the aim of removing squat boats but allow genuine barges to moor in an emergency or to sit out a tide.  We also think the byelaw should clarify what is intended to be meant by 'public access'.



15 (d) to be berthed or moored to any work, structure, post, ring or other thing or place not provided for or unsuitable for that purpose.

The use of the final 'or' means that no vessel could moor to anything which has not explicitly been provided for the purpose of mooring , even if it is suitable for the purpose.  It would prohibit barges from mooring to rubbish barges or indeed to anything not specifically provided for the purpose of mooring to, including to riverbank and to other barges legitimately moored and granting their permission.   It would also seem to prevent a moored barge owner from mooring his dinghy or runabout alongside their legitimately moored vessel, which is likely to  be suitable for that purpose.  Again we assume this arises from the squat boat incident mentioned above.  Again it would prevent or hinder any emergency or temporary mooring by a barge.  We suggest the addition of "for a period in excess of 48 hours" and the replacement of the final "or" with "and";  it may be that a barge or small vessel might want to moor to another barge, with the owner's permission and without obstructing navigation, for a period in excess of 48 hours, and we don't see why that would always need the formal permission of the harbourmaster.  As I'm sure you are aware,  fees often follow closely behind formal permission. 


Best wishes


David Beaumont




iWash group set up

posted 2 Aug 2015, 16:18 by asdfg asdfg   [ updated 2 Aug 2015, 19:47 ]

OPLAC have helped form a new group to campaign against Inconsiderate Wash - iWash.  To report wash incidents on the tidal Thames email (or, now working,

OPLAC's Submission to the PLA 'Tidal Thames Vision' Excercise

posted 14 May 2015, 09:19 by asdfg asdfg   [ updated 14 May 2015, 09:23 ]

The PLA have launched a slightly woolly 'have your say' consultation exercise entitled 'Tidal Thames Vision' see

Below is OPLAC's initial response:

What do you value most about the tidal River Thames? *


Its appearance, along the river banks and that the river is for public enjoyment.


What are your top three priorities for the future of the tidal River Thames? *


1) To have the river run by a democratically accountable organisation with board members elected by the people who fund it (its customers) and/or the public. When the PLA was set up in 1908 64% of its board members were elected by its customers and only 11% by the PLA themselves.  Today no board members are elected by customers and 72-89% are appointed by the PLA themselves.  Consequently the PLA have lost touch with the public and their customers.   


2) For more houseboats along the Thames to be boats rather than multi storey boxes.  Current PLA river works charging policy encourages multi storey square boxes over boats (e.g. a three storey 15m x 15m box is charged the same as a 15m sailing barge).  A discount should be given to boats and also to historic boats.


3) More visitor moorings along the Thames.  The current PLA charging policy discourages visitor moorings at marinas - for both residential and pleasure marinas empty moorings are charged as if they were permanently occupied. There should be no river works charge for moorings that are used only as visitor moorings.  


What would you like the PLA to be doing for the tidal River Thames? *


1) We would like the PLA to make itself accountable to its customers and the public by having elected representatives of them on its board.


2) We would like the PLA to encourage residential house boats over multi storey boxes by discounting the river works fee for boats and also historic boats.  At the least a discount should have some regard to the reduced living space available in a boat.


3) We would like the PLA to encourage the provision of visitor moorings by removing river works fees for moorings used only for vistors.


4) We would like the PLA to encourage rather than restrict public use of the Thames.  Eg The footbridge at Richmond Lock should be re-opened for the public at all times of day (nightime closure was introduced around 2008 "to protect our troops [employees]" - The PLA should not be in a 'war' with the public).  The footbridge should also be gritted during winter snow rather than the current practice of simply closing it to the public. Non corrosive grit is available.


5) The PLA should investigate generating tidal energy from Richmond half lock and encourage tidal energy generation along the Thames. 


6) The PLA should manage water levels below Richmond half lock better so as to minimise very low water downstream of the lock.


7) the PLA should enforce speed limits better along all the Tidal Thames and especially near residential marinas.  


8) Any organision running the Thames should not regard it as a money making opportunity. The PLA was set up to be the caretaker not the landlord of the Thames; the PLA should not be issuing mooring licences or profiting directly from the fact that the river bed was vested in the PLA by the Crown in 1856. Nor should the PLA benefit financially by issuing such things as exemptions to speed limits. 


PLA v Tower Bridge Yacht & Boat Company Limited

posted 14 Oct 2013, 17:06 by asdfg asdfg   [ updated 14 Oct 2013, 19:18 ]

Some River Works/moorings on the tidal Thames do not need to pay a PLA licence fee, see this case out this week:

Moreover the burden of proof seems to be on the PLA, not you. They need to prove you do not have an 'ancient mooring'. According to the PLA's own evidence there are 'dozens of ancient moorings' along the river'.  They don't seem very keen to identify them.

Couper v PLA

posted 10 Oct 2013, 15:10 by asdfg asdfg   [ updated 10 Oct 2013, 15:11 ]

The PLA won on all points.

Firedart incident

posted 27 Nov 2012, 04:34 by asdfg asdfg   [ updated 27 Nov 2012, 04:39 ]

In the early hours of 26th November the 'Firedart' a large fireboat, accompanied by a high wash lower Thames policeboat, undertook a two hour trip from Lambeth to Hampton Court at full speed through central and suburban London, past hundreds of houseboats, leaving massive wash.  Rather predictably it arrived at a boat fire at Ash Island 'after the fire was under control'.

A lot of damage was caused and the PLA are receiving large numbers of complaints.  If you were affected please fill in an incident report form from and send it to to Alex Brown (Assistant Upper Harbour Master)

Local authorities other than London have small RIB and even small hovercraft fireboats in more local locations. The large and expensive 'Firedart' is clearly only suitable to operate below Wandsworth bridge.

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