Houseboats must go’

MOST people whose permanent homes are at Hartford Marina are likely to have to move out. And the marina s owners look set to be made to remove so-called houseboats that are there without planning permission. Only the marina s owners, Barry Perry and his w

MOST people whose permanent homes are at Hartford Marina are likely to have to move out. And the marina's owners look set to be made to remove so-called houseboats that are there without planning permission.

Only the marina's owners, Barry Perry and his wife, and the occupants of a flat above the shop have planning permission to stay on the 15-hectare site of a former gravel pit all year round.

The other accommodation is either strictly for holiday use or has no planning permission at all - and Huntingdonshire District Council is set to crack down on abuses following a series of complaints.

"It has been brought to our attention that there are various people living permanently there in various forms of accommodation," HDC's head of planning enforcement, Sandy Kinnersley, told The Hunts Post. "Some of the boats have planning permission to be there as holiday accommodation. Others have none at all."

She said some of the "houseboats" - caravans on floating concrete pontoons - might have to be removed for safety reasons.

The owners have had "plenty of time" to apply for retrospective planning permission to try to regularise the use of accommodation at the site, she said. No application has been received.

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But she promised: "We will deal with people on the basis of their individual circumstances."

Mr Perry maintains that HDC is wrong and that he has permission for the developments going back 40 years.

As well as the marina itself, an area of 0.4 hectares in the north-east corner that has been sold off and developed into a complex of 30 holiday flats by Wyton developer Rick Francis. Some are believed to be permanent homes.

HDC believes the existence of permanently moored craft and houseboats significantly reduces the marina's capacity to offer mooring to touring boats on the river.

The council says some people who received planning contravention notices last November have failed to respond - which is an offence in itself.

The issue was raised initially when a small number of people from the marina registered to pay Council Tax.

"The creation of a significant number of residential units is tantamount to a new housing development," Mrs Kinnersley said. "The marina falls outside any area identified for residential development and is considered to be in the countryside for planning purposes.

"This means there is a general presumption against housing development, and new development will be considered only where it is essential for the efficient operation of local agricultural or other specified activity."

Mr Perry told The Hunts Post: "I don't agree with HDC. There's planning permission for a boat mooring station and, as far as I'm concerned, a houseboat is a boat.

"We don't have any residential moorings. We have moorings, which I review every year. If someone wants to live on their boats, they're welcome to. I might ask them to leave at the end of the year."

Alan Williams, chairman of Houghton and Wyton Parish Council, said: "I have concerns for some of the elderly residents, but HDC is right to pursue such a large-scale flouting of planning permission.

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