RECLAIM THE ELMBRIDGE RIVERBANK

by Peter Aron

RECLAIM THE ELMBRIDGE RIVERBANK

by Peter Aron
Peter Aron
Case Owner
Apart from some spells working overseas, I've lived in Molesey since the early 1970s (first on Hurst Park and from 2000 on Rivermead).
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Peter Aron
Case Owner
Apart from some spells working overseas, I've lived in Molesey since the early 1970s (first on Hurst Park and from 2000 on Rivermead).
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Latest: Nov. 17, 2022

WE NOW HAVE A COPY OF EA'S REPORT INTO OUR COMPLAINT

Having received no reply to our request on 5 Nov for a copy of the EA Independent Inspector's report into our Stage 2 complaint, we submitted a further request to see it under the Freedom of Info…

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My name is Peter Aron. I’ve lived on Rivermead for the past 22 years and before that in Buckingham Gardens, Hurst Park since the early 1970s. Like many other local residents I have been pressing the Environment Agency (EA) to enforce the mooring regulations on land that they own between Molesey and Sunbury locks on the Thames.

In order to try to overcome illegal mooring and other riverbank problems, representatives of Friends of Hurst Park, Hurst Park Residents Association, Hampton and Molesey Riverside Trust and Rivermead residents have formed the Molesey Riverside Action Group (MRAG) and it as chair of this group that I write to you now.

My initial aim is to press the EA to use their Harbour Master powers defined in the Thames Byelaws 1993 to remove the two accommodation barges currently moored without permission on their land at Hurst Park. It is not our responsibility to tell the EA where to tow the vessels, but we do not want them to be simply moved a short distance where the owner can continue his commercial operation without hinder (as happened in 2019). We want these vessels to be removed from all the stretches of the riverbank owned by the EA within Elmbridge Council boundaries.

The EA secured a conviction in November 2021 against the owner for failing to obey a Harbour Master’s instruction to move in the vicinity of Molesey lock (resulting in a £800 fine and almost £21,000 costs). However, the EA have stated they have no intention of taking action to remove the vessels from their current location at Hurst Park.  MRAG are therefore pursuing the possibility of taking legal action against EA for failing to carry out their enforcement responsibilities.

In order to do this, we need to reopen the Crowd Justice campaign which was run by the local River Users Group in 2020. This will enable us to engage a top solicitor with experience in this field who we estimate will charge in the region of £600 - £1,200. Hence this message to seek your support to enable us to reach our initial target of £600.

If 60 people contribute £10 each, that will enable us to raise £600. Contributions made to Crowd Justice will ensure the amount raised does not go astray. 

I will send you regular progress reports on our attempts to persuade EA to carry out their responsibilities. Meanwhile, your support in helping us raise the £600 to get started will be much appreciated.

Thank you.

Peter Aron


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Update 18

Peter Aron

Nov. 17, 2022

WE NOW HAVE A COPY OF EA'S REPORT INTO OUR COMPLAINT

Having received no reply to our request on 5 Nov for a copy of the EA Independent Inspector's report into our Stage 2 complaint, we submitted a further request to see it under the Freedom of Information Act on 15 Nov.   Today we received a copy of the report (see Attachment), together with a statement from the EA that they were intending to send it to us all along! 

We consider the report to be light on detail, despite taking four months to compile.  It says nothing about the failures of leadership and management, which the Inspector would have been competent to comment on, despite our having given him examples of such failures.  Nor does it include any feedback from his interviews with operational staff, despite our knowing that some of them share our frustrations and told the Inspector so when he interviewed them.  There are also other statements in the report with which we disagree. 

But the essential point is that the investigation into our complaint has not resulted in the removal of Hui and RoR, despite both vessels having been moored without consent alongside EA owned land at Hurst Park for over three years.  We therefore feel fully justified in submitting the next stage of our complaint (currently with our MP for sign-off) to the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman.

 THMC16031 Independent internal report Formal complaint review - template report.pdf

  

Update 17

Peter Aron

Nov. 11, 2022

EA REJECTS OUR STAGE 2 COMPLAINT ABOUT HUI AND ROR

On 1 Nov 22 we received a letter from an EA Director rejecting our Stage 2 complaint (see first Attachment).

Although our immediate reaction was one of dismay (to put it mildly), we are not deterred and our campaign to remove Hui and RoR from the Elmbridge riverbank continues. Our next step is to elevate our complaint to the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO) via our MP.

Even though we had been informed we would receive a copy of the Independent Inspector’s report into our complaint (which has been under investigation since August), it was not attached to the rejection letter and we have not yet succeeded in obtaining a copy of it (see email exchange in second attachment). But here again our efforts continue and, if necessary, we will seek to obtain it by submitting a Freedom of Information request.

Two points raising concerns in the rejection letter are as follows:

a)  The EA Director signing off the rejection is the line manager of both the Independent Inspector and the Area Director for the stretch of the Thames at the centre of our complaint. At least until we have sight of the Independent Inspector’s report, this raises a question about the line manager’s impartiality;

b)  The rejection letter contains the following statement: “ I believe that given the recent change of ownership of these vessels.…”   Whilst this raises questions we would obviously wish to pursue, the EA’s further statement that: “...the Environment Agency will not discuss ongoing enforcement matters with 3rd parties...."  will inevitably inhibit our ability to do so.

THMC16031 EA response to Mr Aron.pdfEMAIL EXCHANGE WITH EA FOLLOWING REJECTION OF COMPLAINT.docx

Update 16

Peter Aron

Oct. 29, 2022

EA RESPONSES TO QUESTIONS RAISED AT 23 JULY 22 MEETING

Update 14 provided details of some questions we put to EA officers at a meeting on 23 July (also attended by Dominic Raab MP and Cllr Steve Bax).  Having chased up a response, we received the EA reply on 23 October.  Answers to the questions (and for ease of reference a copy of the email in which we raised them) are contained in the emails pasted below.  

Begin forwarded message:
From: Peter Aron <ppcla@btinternet.com>
Subject: Fwd: WW2022-1024 - 220803/SRi03 - UNAUTHORISED MOORING ON THAMES IN ELMBRIDGE
Date: 21 October 2022 at 15:47:21 BST


At last we have answers to our questions, but these raise a number of further questions which I suggest we should delay following-up until we receive the response to our Stage 2 complaint (due by the end of  this month). 

On c, the response on fly-tipping seems odd given that on 7 Apr the EA Twitter post mentioned that the “...EA would be back in 14 days to enforce directions to move and issue notices for fly-tipping on the towpath”.   If dealing with fly-tipping on the towpath is not within the EA’s remit, why did they bother to mention they would be back to issue notices for fly-tipping if they had no intention of doing so?  It just re-enforces illegal moorers’ belief that EA threats can be ignored with impunity.

Regards,

Peter 


Begin forwarded message:
From: WaterwaysThames <WaterwaysThames@environment-agency.gov.uk>Subject: WW2022-1024 - 220803/SRi03 - UNAUTHORISED MOORING ON THAMES IN ELMBRIDGEDate: 21 October 2022 at 11:31:02 BSTTo: Peter Aron <ppcla@btinternet.com>Cc: WaterwaysThames <WaterwaysThames@environment-agency.gov.uk>
Dear Peter,
Following your meeting at the end of July with Andrew Croxford & myself, along with MP Dominic Raab and Cllr Steve Bax, you wrote to us asking for clarification on a number of points. Firstly, can I apologies for the delay in getting back to you but hopefully the below answers all your questions.
  1. Stage 2 Complaint: Your Stage 2 compliant is being investigated by Simon Moody, Deputy Director for our Solent & South Downs Area. Simon has confirmed that the interviews and review are completed, and he hopes to provide you with a response by the end of October.
  1. Hui and RoR: I have discussed your request regarding the registration status of these two vessels with our enforcement team. They have informed me that we do not share the registration status of boats with third parties, so unfortunately, I cannot confirm if they are or are not registered.
  1. Registration Enforcement Notices: Following our action on the 7th April we didn’t issue any directions to move on the 10 boats that we issued registration enforcement notices on. We did return to Hurst Park 14 days later and issued follow up notices on the boats that were still there. Following this action 2 of the boats have registered. Unfortunately, the remaining boats haven’t been followed up due to resource constraints and our enforcement priorities across the entire length of the River.
We didn’t issue any fly-tipping notices during this time as this isn’t within the Environment Agency’s remit. This activity may have been carried out by the Local Authority.
  1. Changes to our Bye-laws: Our by-laws cover the whole of the non-tidal River Thames and fall under our Primary Legislation the Thames Conservancy Act. We aren’t currently looking to change or amend them for a specific area of the River. We are always looking at how we can use our existing powers more effectively to achieve positive outcomes across the non-tidal Thames.
 Enforcement contract: Our contract with District Enforcement was terminated due to an issue with the tendering process. Enforcement of Environment Agency moorings is currently being undertaken but our own staff we are looking into if this could be carried out by a third party. If this option is taken off it would be a national contract that would be available for all areas of the Environment Agency where we are the navigation authority and not just Thames Area.Consultation with river users about the implementation of Article 24 of IWO 2010, hasn’t taken place yet. This work is being led on by our National Colleagues but is unfortunately behind schedule. However, we do not agree that this has hampered our enforcement of the boats at Hurst Park.
Again, many apologies in the delay in getting back to you following your meeting at the end of July and I hope that above answers you question
Yours sincerely,James AdamsSenior SpecialistEnvironment Agency

  Begin forwarded message:

From: Peter Aron <ppcla@btinternet.com>

Subject: UNAUTHORISED MOORING ON THAMES IN ELMBRIDGEDate: 

23 July 2022 at 13:12:20 BSTTo: james.adams@environment.agency.gov.uk

Cc: andy.croxford@environment-agency.gov.uk

Dear James,

It was good to meet you and Andy at the meeting with our MP Dominic Raab and Cllr Steve Bax yesterday afternoon. I thought you might find it helpful to have the following details of the points you kindly agreed to pursue:

a) Our Stage 2 complaint. We asked if you would let us know the name and job title of the EA official who is to carry out the independent review and also the time scale in which it will be completed in line with your service standards. We agreed a timescale of up to about six weeks seemed reasonable.

b) Hui and RoR. We asked if these vessels were currently registered under the Inland Waterways (Environment Agency) Order 2010. You kindly agreed to find out and let us know.

c) Registration Enforcement Notices. On 7 Apr 22 an EA Twitter post mentioned that "12 boats on Hurst Park had been issued with registration enforcement notices and added that EA would be back in 14 days to enforce directions to move and issue notices for fly-tipping on the towpath”. We asked for details of the outcome of this enforcement action but you said that legal constraints prevented you from providing these. Whilst recognising these constraints in connection with any ongoing action, we would nevertheless welcome an outline summary of the outcome of this enforcement activity. We believe you should be able to provide this without breaching your confidentiality requirements. If you were able to provide details of eg the number of boats complying with your registration notices, obeying or refusing directions to move and also the number of fines or other action resulting from the issuing of fly-tipping notices, this would go a small way towards overcoming the frustration felt by local residents who are otherwise left with the impression that the EA is failing to take or follow ups any enforcement action.

d) Bye-laws. We touched on Kingston and Richmond Councils' introduction of bye-laws which had significantly reduced the incidence of unauthorised mooring on the stretches of riverbank that they own. This had resulted in the displacement of overstaying boats to the Elmbridge riverbank, where no similar bye-laws exist. In response to our enquiry, you agreed to look into the possibility of the EA introducing such bye-laws on their land in Elmbridge.

Enforcement contract.  Whilst emailing you, there are two other matters on which we would welcome your advice. The first concerns your contract with District Enforcement. In an email dated 19 Nov 19, Julia Simpson commented as follows to a river user who had complained about the lack of enforcement:"I am sure you will be encouraged to know that we are engaged in the procurement process for a company to manage our mooring sites. This will be at our dedicated mooring sites and at sites where we are the landowner but do not encourage, facilitate or allow stays beyond 24 hours. Desborough Island is an example of the former and the riverbank upstream of Sunbury’s Ait and example of the latter. We hope to have appointed the successful bidder and have new arrangements in place well before the start of the new boating season.”In the event District Enforcement, who have a good track record on enforcement, were awarded the contract but it was terminated shortly thereafter. We should be grateful if you would let us know why the contract was terminated and also if it is intended that a further contract for an external company to manage your mooring sites is currently under consideration.

And finally, consultation with river users about the implementation of IWO 2010.Article 24 of that Order requires the EA to:

"consult with sue organisations as appear to be representative of users off the 

waterways in relation to the introduction of registration requirements"

Despite being a long outstanding requirement, we understand that no such consultation has yet taken place. We should therefore be grateful if you would explain why this is the case and when you expect it to be undertaken. Local residents consider this to be an urgent requirement since we believe the failure to carry out this consultation has inhibited the EA from being able to implement some of the enforcement powers which would otherwise be available to the Agency under the terms of the IWO.We are grateful to you and Andy for making the time available to attend our meeting. Now that we have met, we feel it will be beneficial for both the EA and ourselves if we keep in touch on issues such as those raised above. We hope you will agree and we look forward to receiving your responses to these enquiries.

With thanks and kind regards,

Peter






Update 15

Peter Aron

Oct. 29, 2022

EA RESPONSE TO MRAG STAGE 2 COMPLAINT NOW DUE BY END OCT 22

Having originally been informed the EA's response to our Stage 2 Complaint would reach us by the end of September, we were subsequently informed it would be by about the middle of October and more recently we've been assured it will be by the end of October (ie the day after tomorrow!).  Copies of our recent exchanges with the EA on the date we can expect to receive it are pasted below:



Dear Peter

Apologies for the delay in this update. Both Simon and I have been out of the office recently.

I have spoken to Simon, and he has confirmed he has all the information he needs, and we have allocated space in his calendar over the next few weeks in order for him to complete his report, which will be with you by the end of October.

Kind regards

Jo

Jo Lima

PA to Simon Moody, Area Director, Solent and South Downs

Environment Agency | Guildbourne House, Chatsworth Road, Worthing, West Sussex, BN11 1LD


From: Peter Aron <ppcla@btinternet.com>
Sent: 18 October 2022 11:31
To: Moody, Simon <simon.moody@environment-agency.gov.uk>
Cc: Lima, Jo <Joanne.Lima@environment-agency.gov.uk>;

Dear Simon,

Please let me know when we can expect to receive the update you mention below.

Thank you.

Peter


On 23 Sep 2022, at 14:42, Lima, Jo <Joanne.Lima@environment-agency.gov.uk> wrote:

Dear Peter

Just to give you an update on the interviews that Simon has been overseeing.

Five out of the six interviews have now taken place and the final one is due to take place next week. They have taken slightly longer than expected due to staff absence.

Simon will update you again within the next few weeks.

Kind regards

Jo

Jo Lima

PA to Simon Moody, Area Director, Solent and South Downs

Environment Agency | Guildbourne House, Chatsworth Road, Worthing, West Sussex, BN11 1LD



Update 14

Peter Aron

Oct. 3, 2022

EA RESPONSE TO MRAG STAGE 2 COMPLAINT DELAYED

The EA's response to our Stage 2 complaint was expected by the end of September but we have since been informed that 'interviews with the relevant staff have taken longer than expected due to staff absences'.  An email dated 23 Sept assured us we would receive a further update 'within the next few weeks'.  So we will chase up a response if we have heard nothing further by mid October. Meanwhile, we were due to receive a response by 16 September to queries we had raised with EA officers following a meeting hosted by MRAG on 23 July (also attended. by our MP Dominic Raab and Cllr Steve Bax).  We have since drawn the attention of the EA Director investigating our Stage 2 complaint to the EA's failure to reply to this and other questions we have raised ov er the past year or so and we expect reference to be made to this in the Investigator's response.   A copy of the email chain containing the queries we raised following the 23 July meeting is pasted below for your information.

Peter Aron

Email chain:

On 23 Sep 2022, at 06:32, Peter Aron wrote
Dear Andy,
As 16 September has come and gone, some indication of when you expect to be able to reply to my email of 23 July will be much appreciated please.
Thank you.
Peter

On 18 Aug 2022, at 08:02, WaterwaysThames <WaterwaysThames@environment-agency.gov.uk> wrote:
Dear Peter, I am sure you can appreciate that in order to answer these questions, discussions will need to be had with our Enforcement, Legal and possibly National teams. James is seeking the information for a response and we will aim to get back to you with answers before 16 September. If we are unable to meet this date with all the answers, we will update you beforehand.   

Andrew CroxfordLocal Development Lead Environment AgencyThames Waterways Operations

From: Peter Aron 

Subject: UNAUTHORISED MOORING ON THAMES IN ELMBRIDGEDate: 23 July 2022 at 13:12:20 BST

To: james.adams@environment.agency.gov.uk, james.adam@environment-agency.gov.ukCc: andy.croxford@environment-agency.gov.uk,

Dear James,It was good to meet you and Andy at the meeting with our MP Dominic Raab and Cllr Steve Bax yesterday afternoon. I thought you might find it helpful to have the following details of the points you kindly agreed to pursue:

a) Our Stage 2 complaint. We asked if you would let us know the name and job title of the EA official who is to carry out the independent review and also the time scale in which it will be completed in line with your service standards. We agreed a timescale of up to about six weeks seemed reasonable

b) Hui and RoR. We asked if these vessels were currently registered under the Inland Waterways (Environment Agency) Order 2010. You kindly agreed to find out and let us know.

c) Registration Enforcement Notices. On 7 Apr 22 an EA Twitter post mentioned that "12 boats on Hurst Park had been issued with registration enforcement notices and added that EA would be back in 14 days to enforce directions to move and issue notices for fly-tipping on the towpath”. We asked for details of the outcome of this enforcement action but you said that legal constraints prevented you from providing these. Whilst recognising these constraints in connection with any ongoing action, we would nevertheless welcome an outline summary of the outcome of this enforcement activity. We believe you should be able to provide this without breaching your confidentiality requirements. If you were able to provide details of eg the number of boats complying with your registration notices, obeying or refusing directions to move and also the number of fines or other action resulting from the issuing of fly-tipping notices, this would go a small way towards overcoming the frustration felt by local residents who are otherwise left with the impression that the EA is failing to take or follow ups any enforcement action.

d) Bye-laws. We touched on Kingston and Richmond Councils' introduction of bye-laws which had significantly reduced the incidence of unauthorised mooring on the stretches of riverbank that they own. This had resulted in the displacement of overstaying boats to the Elmbridge riverbank, where no similar bye-laws exist. In response to our enquiry, you agreed to look into the possibility of the EA introducing such bye-laws on their land in Elmbridge.

Enforcement contract.  Whilst emailing you, there are two other matters on which we would welcome your advice. The first concerns your contract with District Enforcement. In an email dated 19 Nov 19, Julia Simpson commented as follows to a river user who had complained about the lack of enforcement:"I am sure you will be encouraged to know that we are engaged in the procurement process for a company to manage our mooring sites. This will be at our dedicated mooring sites and at sites where we are the landowner but do not encourage, facilitate or allow stays beyond 24 hours. Desborough Island is an example of the former and the riverbank upstream of Sunbury’s Ait and example of the latter. We hope to have appointed the successful bidder and have new arrangements in place well before the start of the new boating season.”  In the event District Enforcement, who have a good track record on enforcement, were awarded the contract but it was terminated shortly thereafter. We should be grateful if you would let us know why the contract was terminated and also if it is intended that a further contract for an external company to manage your mooring sites is currently under consideration.

And finally, consultation with river users about the implementation of IWO 2010. Article 24 of that Order requires the EA to: 

"consult with such organisations as appear  to be representatives of users of the waterways in relation to the introduction of registration requirements."  

Despite being a long outstanding requirement, we understand that no such consultation has yet taken place. We should therefore be grateful if you would explain why this is the case and when you expect it to be undertaken. Local residents consider this to be an urgent requirement since we believe the failure to carry out this consultation has inhibited the EA from being able to implement some of the enforcement powers which would otherwise be available to the Agency under the terms of the IWO.

We are grateful to you and Andy for making the time available to attend our meeting. Now that we have met, we feel it will be beneficial for both the EA and ourselves if we keep in touch on issues such as those raised above. We hope you will agree and we look forward to receiving your responses to these enquiries.                                   

With thanks and kind regards, Peter




Update 13

Peter Aron

Oct. 3, 2022

EA ISSUE NOTICES OF INTENDED ACTION AGAINST ILLEGALLY MOORED BOATS

We have been informed that EA Officers have recently been posting notices threatening legal action against various boats "moored without consent" (their preferred term) on the Thames in Molesey.  The example we have seen related to one of the illegally moored boats at Cherry Orchard Gardens, but there was no sign of one on RoR or Hui when I looked this afternoon.

Whilst the issue of these Notices is good news of sorts (and just may have resulted from our Stage 2 complaint about EA failings), EA have done this before and the deadlines for action come and go.  In this case the deadline for vacating the site is 3rd October (ie today).  So it will be interesting to see if anything happens.....

Kind regards,

Peter


EA Legal Letter Sept 2022

Update 12

Peter Aron

Aug. 19, 2022

Salient Points from Meeting With Independent Investigator of Our Complaint

We held an online meeting on 16 Aug 22 with the Independent Investigator of our Stage 2 Complaint about the EA's ineffective enforcement of their mooring regulations in relation to unconsented mooring on EA owned riverbank land in Elmbridge.  Salient points from the meeting are recorded in the Word Doc below:MeetingPoints160822.docx

Update 11

Peter Aron

Aug. 8, 2022

EA Provide Name of Independent Investigator of Stage 2 Complaint

On 28 Jul 2022, at 18:01, Simpson, Julia <julia.simpson@environment-agency.gov.uk> wrote:



Dear Mr Aron, Complaint reference: THMC16031 (previous reference THMCU14644) I am sorry for the delay in confirming the details of the independent investigator, this took slightly longer than normal due to annual leave. I can now confirm that Simon Moody has been appointed to undertake the review under Stage 2 of our policy and that Simon is qualified as an Area Director for our Solent and South Downs Team, with considerable previous experience as an independent investigator. Simon is undertaking an initial review of case files and will provide you with an indication of timescales once he has had time to consider this. In response to your question on which Agency takes the lead on activities against unauthorised vessels overstaying on EA land in Elmbridge. I can confirm that no one Agency currently takes a lead. This is because each Agency has its own legal aegis and responsibilities. Whether that is Elmbridge DC, Fire and Rescue, or ourselves. We will liaise and work in support of each other and continue to share our intelligence. 


Yours sincerely Julia Simpson Area Director - ThamesEnvironment Agency julia.simpson@environment-agency.gov.uk 
Update 10

Peter Aron

Aug. 8, 2022

Reply from EA dated 5 July 22 and Further Email from Peter Aron dated 12 July 22

On 12 Jul 2022, at 11:17, Peter Aron <ppcla@btinternet.com> wrote:

Dear Ms Simpson and/or Miss Hill,

Thank you for arranging for this complaint to be escalated to Stage 2 of your complaints procedure.

It would be helpful if you would let me know the name/job title of the independent investigator appointed to carry this out and also an indication of the timescale in which we can expect it to be completed. 

I note from your email that you 'continue to work with professional partners to combine enforcement activity', but I would be interested to know whether it is the Environment Agency or some other organisation that actually takes the lead on this activity.

Answers to these questions will be very much appreciated please.

Yours sincerely,

Peter Aron



On 5 Jul 2022, at 16:21, Simpson, Julia <julia.simpson@environment-agency.gov.uk> wrote:
Dear Mr Aron, Thank you for your correspondence dated 14 June 2022 and 1 July 2022 regarding unauthorised vessels on Environment Agency land in Elmbridge and I apologise for not responding sooner.I acknowledge your request to escalate this matter to stage 2 of our complaints procedure and would be happy to put measures in place to action this. I will be appointing an independent investigator to review our management of this matter.My staff are aware of their responsibilities associated with us being the Navigation Authority and we will continue to work with professional partners to combine enforcement activity, where appropriate to do so. Please do not hesitate to contact enquiries_THM@environment-agency.gov.uk if you have any further queries. Yours sincerely, Emma Emma HillActing Area Director - ThamesOn behalf of Julia SimpsonArea Director – ThamesEnvironment Agency
Update 9

Peter Aron

Aug. 8, 2022

Further letter from Peter Aron to EA dated 1 July 2022

1 July 2022

Dear Ms Simpson, 

RHYTHM OF THE RIVER (ROR) AND HUI MOORED AT HURST PARK 

I have tried calling you by phone to discuss this matter before sending this letter but your Customer Service staff told me you were not available.

Further to my letter dated 14th June which followed the complaint letter sent you on my behalf by Chris Millar on the 5th May (to neither of which have we received a reply) I am writing to ask you to escalate our complaint to Stage 2 of the Environment Agency’s complaints procedure, ie the independent investigation of our complaint that you have failed to remove Mr Trotman’s two boats Rhythm of the River (ROR) and Hui from their mooring at Hurst Park.

Quite simply, our patience is exhausted, and we feel we have reached the end of the line with our initial complaint as ROR and Hui have not been moved and you won’t tell us whether or not you are going to use your harbourmaster powers, or any other powers ceded to you under Thames or national waterways legislation to remove them. Indeed, we feel you have lost control of this case as we believe that you do not know who now owns or controls these vessels. We posit that this is a clear case of maladministration.

You claim to be supporting Surrey FRS in the action that they are taking against the owner of these two vessels, but they have told us that their prosecution is completed and that their only concern now is to reclaim the court costs owed to them. You also claim to be working in partnership with Elmbridge Borough Council (EBC), but we see no evidence of this. All we see is an excoriating letter of complaint addressed to your Chief Executive from the EBC Chief Executive published on the EBC website, to which you have not had the courtesy to reply.

You could, of course, save everyone the time and trouble of carrying out Stage 2 and (in the event it does not result in a satisfactory outcome) the subsequent referral of our complaint via our MP, Mr Dominic Raab who has agreed to sign it before forwarding it on to the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (who has already allocated us a reference number C-2074752) by using your powers under S85 of the TCA 1932 to relocate the two vessels to your Sunbury Depot or your backwater at Penton Hook Marina. Then invite any interested parties to submit a claim for ownership, as you have done for the vessel Hope 4.

If you decide to take such action, we are prepared to put our request that you escalate our complaint on hold for a period of two weeks from the date of this letter. If however you have no intention of removing ROR and Hui by that date we should be grateful if you would escalate our complaint with immediate effect and confirm that you have done so.

Yours sincerely,

Peter Aron

Update 8

Peter Aron

Aug. 8, 2022

Letter from Peter Aron to EA dated 14 June 22

14 June 2022

Dear Ms Simpson

I am writing to you to express my disappointment at your failure to respond in a timely fashion to the complaint letter to you dated 5 May 2022, on behalf of MRAG, by Mr Chris Millar of Downs Law. I also wish to signal our intention to refer our complaint to the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO). The PHSO has provided us with a case reference number (C-2074752) and we will be asking our MP Dominic Raab to support our case.

In his letter Mr Millar made the following serious accusation:

“It is sadly, yet again the case, that the Environment Agency is seeking to evade its legal duties and obligations to the public to regulate and enforce the lawful use of the Thames, within its jurisdiction”

In the absence of a reply from you in your position as Area Director, we have had to rely on an email summary of a telephone conversation between your colleague Colin Chiverton and Steve Collins, former Chair of the local Thames River Users Group. In his email dated 26th May, Mr Chiverton stated that:

“I did not state that we would not be taking out an injunction [against Mr A Trotman]. I was very clear that all enforcement options continue to remain available to us. I reiterated that we would not indicate what, when or how we would be pursuing further action.”

The use of the double negative is a classic obfuscation. Mr Chiverton is carefully avoiding making any statement that could be interpreted as a decision that could be subject to a judicial review. Indeed, Mr Chiverton reaffirmed the Agency’s legal position that they would defend any such action and “seek full cost recovery, as enforcement action is funded by Grant in Aid and is taxpayer’s money.” 

This is deeply ironic because we are taxpayers ourselves and, as Mr Miller stated in his letter:

“This sadly begs the further question whether the Environment Agency has been inept and wasteful of the taxpayers’ money in its actions against Mr Trotman, when compared to the speedy and successful action taken by the Royal Borough of Kingston-upon-Thames”

In any case, it would seem that the time has passed for any effective enforcement action to be taken against Mr Trotman to require him to move his two vessels, as it has been suggested by the EA that he has either sold them or ceded control to persons unknown.

In which case, I should be grateful if you would let me know the current status of the action to which the third para of your email to Mr Millar dated 26 Apr 22 relates, in light of your statement that ‘The enforcement relating to this matter is ongoing as the defendant to the recent prosecution has made an application to have the case stated.’ In this connection I should explain that it is our understanding that Surrey Fire and Rescue are/were not aware of any such action.

Yours sincerely,

Peter Aron

(On behalf of Molesey Riverside Action Group)

Update 7

Peter Aron

Aug. 8, 2022

Further letter from our Solicitor dated 5 May 22 to EA

From: Christopher Millar <c.millar@downslaw.co.uk>
Sent: 05 May 2022 15:48
To: Simpson, Julia <julia.simpson@environment-agency.gov.uk>

Subject: RE: Mr. Trotman - Our reference: THMCU14251_CT16636

Dear Ms. Simpson,

I thank you for your email below.

Please see attached letter and enclosures, for your attention.

Regards

CHRIS MILLAR

herlihy posting.pdfLO julia simpson  order 29.04.2022.pdf

Update 6

Peter Aron

Aug. 8, 2022

EA Response (dated 26 Apr 22) to Our Solicitor's letter of 30 Mar 22

From: Christopher Millar <c.millar@downslaw.co.uk>
Sent: 25 April 2022 15:01
To: Simpson, Julia <julia.simpson@environment-agency.gov.uk>
Subject: RE: Mr. Trotman

Dear Julia,

I refer to my email below and regret to note that I have received no response whatsoever.

In the absence of any substantive response by the end of this week, my client and myself will have no option than to assume that the Environment Agency is not proposing to take any action to effect and enforce the removal of Mr. Trotman’s illegal mooring of his two boats.

In passing, I would refer you to the attached extract from the Environment Agency’s Enforcement Plan for the year to the end of March which has just elapsed. It appears to be the case that sadly the Environment Agency publicises its good intentions, but fails to adhere to them.

Regards

CHRIS MILLAR



From: Simpson, Julia <julia.simpson@environment-agency.gov.uk>
Sent: 26 April 2022 16:21
To: Christopher Millar <c.millar@downslaw.co.uk>
Subject: [EXT] Mr. Trotman - Our reference: THMCU14251_CT16636

Dear Mr Millar,

Thank you for your emails dated 30 March 2022, 11 April 2022 and 25 April 2022 regarding vessels named Rhythm of the River and Hui, currently moored at Hurst Park, Molesey.

Unfortunately, I am unable to provide the substantive response you have requested as this correspondence would be disclosable should a Freedom of Information request, Environmental Information Request or Subject Access Request be made.

The enforcement relating to this matter is ongoing as the defendant to the recent prosecution has made an application to have the case stated. I believe this has now happened and that we have been given until 29 April 2022 to make further representations. You will be aware that we do not discuss ongoing enforcement matters with third parties as these need to remain private and confidential.

The amount that a Defendant can be ordered to pay back per month is determined by the Court and it is the Judge who, on hearing the Defendant’s circumstances, sets the figure.

It has not been appropriate to take action whilst the prosecutions from us and Surrey Fire and Rescue are on-going. Furthermore you will be aware that on several occasions, since March 2020, we lifted restrictions on time periods for mooring due to issues related to Health and Safety as a result of Coronavirus. Please use this link for more information - Coronavirus (COVID-19) updates.

Article 16 is one of the options available to us but is not necessarily the most appropriate. A decision on whether further enforcement action is needed and if so what, will be taken in due course once the ongoing existing actions by ourselves and Surrey Fire and Rescue are deemed complete. We continue to work with Surrey Fire and Rescue to assist in the furtherance of their legislation.

My staff continue to align their activities to our 2022/23 Regulation & Enforcement Plan, which was updated on Gov.UK on 31 March 2022.

Please do not hesitate to contact enquiries_thm@environment-agency.gov.uk if you have any further queries.

Yours sincerely,

J.E. SimpsonEA

Area Director – Thames

Environment Agency

julia.simpson@environment-agency.gov.uk

Update 5

Peter Aron

May 11, 2022

Injunction granted against Trotman

Another related riverbank development to bring to your attention is that on Friday 29 April, at the Royal Courts of Justice, Kingston Council was granted an injunction requiring Alistair Trotman (the owner of the two accommodation barges illegally moored near the Sadlers Ride slipway) to remove his third boat, Kupe, from Queens Promenade in Kingston within 48 hours.  The injunction also prevents Trotman mooring Kupe on any other other land owned by Kingston Council.  However (unless Trotman appeals) this seemingly good news comes with a sting in the tail, since it raises the prospect of Trotman moving Kupe upstream to Hurst Park to join his other two boats, where on past form he probably hopes they will continue to remain undisturbed by the ineffective Environment Agency (despite being illegally moored on EA owned land and above the EA owned riverbed).

Postscript:  Following an appeal by Trotman, the 48 hour deadline for him to move Kupe from Queens Promenade was extended to Friday 5 May.  But as at today's date (Wednesday 11 May 22) Kupe is still moored at Queens Promenade. 

Update 4

Peter Aron

May 10, 2022

Refusal of Houseboat Planning Applications Upheld by Planning Inspector

In December 2020, Elmbridge Council refused retrospective planning applications for moorings/residential moorings (including the enclosure of riverside land) by five houseboats/pleasure craft moored on the Thames upstream from Cherry Orchard Gardens, West Molesey.   The refusals were appealed to the Planning Inspectorate and the Hearing of the appeals was heard on 15 March 22.  On 26 April 2022, with one exception, the Planning Inspector upheld Elmbridge Council's decision to reject the applications.  The one exception (arising as the result of the presence of a child) was time limited and subject to some fairly stringent conditions. 

Update 3

Peter Aron

April 20, 2022

DEADLINE FOR EA 'DIRECTIONS TO MOVE' NOTICES


On 7 April 12 boats illegally moored on Hurst Park (including, we understand, the two accommodation barges near the Sadler's Ride slipway) were issued with registration enforcement notices by the Environment Agency (EA) and warned that in 14 days the EA would be back to 'enforce directions to move'.  

The 14 days is up tomorrow, 21 April, and we will be interested to see what form the EA's directions to move will take.    






Update 2

Peter Aron

April 12, 2022

First Signs of Enforcement Activity By EA

A Twitter post on 7 April by Maria Herlihy, an EA Operations Manager, contains the following report:

"Nav ENF today issued 12 boats on hurst park all have had registration enforcement notices and advised that we will be back in 14 days to enforce directions to move and issue notices for fly tipping on towpath."

We don't know if this welcome activity is a response to the MRAG solicitor's letter to the EA,  but the timing suggests it is.  The 14 days ends on 21 April, so it will be interesting to see how the EA enforces the 'directions to move'.  Watch this space!



Update 1

Peter Aron

April 9, 2022

UPDATE: SOLICITOR'S LETTER TO EA

The top solicitor engaged by MRAG has now written to Julia Simpson (Environment Agency Area Director) requesting the removal of the two accommodation barges moored on EA land at Hurst Park.  He has asked for a substantive reply within 21 days ( ie by 20 April).  Copies of the letter and a supporting document (the judgement in the case brought by Surrey Fire and Rescue) are both attached   A further update will be issued after 20 April.  

In the meantime, our Crowd Justice funding campaign is going well, thanks to the support of those viewing this web page.  We have now extended our target figure in the knowledge that we may have to take further legal action to pursue our case against the EA for failing to carry out its responsibilities in respect of these two barges and other illegal moorers. letter.pdf     judgment.pdf

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