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In a big operation on the lower part of the non-tidal river the Environment Agency impounded overstaying boats.

But after being held at Teddington, the barges have now been returned to their owners and are now reported to be back on theThames near Shepperton.

Nick McKie-Smith, River Thames Waterways Operations Enforcement Manager, said:‘Under the terms of the possession order we were granted, we were legally entitled to remove these boats from our land (Teddington Lock), but we were also legally bound to release them back to the owner once they had made suitable arrangements to collect them from us.

"The owner retrieved the boats, towing them back onto the main river using commercial tugs and private vessels. We monitored this process to ensure it was carried out safely.

"The owner is legally entitled to continue navigating the river with these boats. However, no one has a legal right to moor to land for more than a reasonable period (24 hours) or against the landowner’s wishes. We have not granted the owner of these boats permission to moor to any land which we own along the Thames, unless it is one of our managed mooring sites and in accordance with its terms and conditions. Should that happen, we will begin further enforcement action.

"If the boats are moored to land belonging to any other organisation or individual without their permission, any enforcement action will be for them to progress, as landowner, if they choose to do so. We have no legal power to take action on their behalf, but we are always happy to provide advice and guidance on the best course of action they can to take, to resolve the matter as quickly as possible."

Earlier we reported

The operation involving the agency, Metropolitan Police, London Borough of Richmond-upon-Thames and High Court enforcement officers resulted in a number of boats, including three large barges, all of which were moored near Teddington lock being removed.

The boats were breaking a number of river regulations including registration licence and overstaying on short-term moorings.

The problem of the boats on the lower river was recently highlighted by BBC London TV news. See report here.

The EA operation followed a county court order granted in November requiring the barges to be moved. This was not complied with..

The EA said in a statement then: " As part of a pre-planned operation, once High Court enforcement officers had ensured all occupants were safely removed from the boats, we towed them to secure berths at an Environment Agency site off the main river.

"We sincerely hope that yesterday’s action is the last enforcement action we need to carry out in relation to these and any other vessels belonging to the same owner, and that it successfully results in the owner of these boats keeping or using them on the River Thames in accordance with all relevant legislation and with all necessary consents, if they remain on this waterway.

"We also hope it acts as a strong deterrent to anyone else who may be considering acting in a similarly inconsiderate way.

"We have also done much work with landowners in recent years, to improve their understanding of the rules regarding moorings, and the range of actions they can take to prevent people mooring without their consent, and to deal with those who do. This gives us confidence that any further issues will be resolved far more quickly and effectively than ever before".

Story updated March 13th 2017