Registered charity 276264

The Houseboats

The Society has been concerned for some time that the amenity of Chelsea Reach, upstream of Battersea Bridge would be damaged by the removal of the traditional houseboats, and their replacement by large unsuitable structures which look more like pre-fabs than boats.

We have therefore campaigned to persuade RBKC to enforce the Design Brief in the Thames Conservation Area Statement of 1983, but they say they have no legal power to do so. This is disputed, and The Chelsea Society and other stakeholders are therefore seeking the Opinion of a QC.

An opportunity had however arisen to deal with this matter by contract, rather than having to rely on the planning laws.

The Council is the freehold owner of the Old Ferry Wharf and the lease to the Chelsea Yacht & Boat Company has expired. The Council says that it has listened to the concerns of the boatowners and local residents and has put in place, through the new lease agreements, a number of provisions. These would include measures designed to protect and maintain the existing character of the area by controls on the number of moorings and size of vessels accessed or serviced from the Old Ferry Wharf site, as well as all moorings up to Battersea Bridge. In addition, a ‘code of conduct’ to ensure that statutory and other obligations, including Health and Safety measures, would also be included in the Access and Services Lease in relation to the moorings accessed or serviced from Old Ferry Wharf.

So far so good, but the Council has refused to tell us what these measures and code of conduct are. They have simply referred us to the Key Decision and clauses 3.3 and 3.4 of officers’ report of 29th March 2022, but these are much too vague to enable the Society to form a view as to whether the proposed restrictions would be adequate to protect the amenity of the area.

The Society has proposed a list of restrictions as follows:

  • the style of the boat should essentially be boat-like and not resemble a box or container or a land-based house. House-like fascia and eaves projections and gables should not be permitted, nor should large and rectangular window forms. Glass windows should form no more that 40% of the surface on which they are located.
  • The boats should not be too long. RBKC have suggested 32 metres, but in our view they should not be longer overall than 25 metres.
  • The boats should not be too high. RBKC have suggested 2.5 metres above the deck, but in our view they should not be higher than 4 metres above the waterline.  We think that the waterline is the correct base point, because some boats have more than one deck, with different heights.  Also we would not want to encourage the construction of boats with very high hulls so as to maximise the overall permitted height.
  • All boats should be recorded and assessed for Council tax as a single residence and must not comprise two or more flats
  • The 53 Metre gap between the two rows of CYBC moorings at Chelsea Reach must be preserved.
  • Boats with pontoon construction should be discouraged and should have only one level of accommodation. A second lower level of accommodation may be contained within a conventional hull.
  • Boats should be constructed in materials and finishes consistent with traditional boat-building practice
  • All plumbing, wiring and utilities to be internal and with any external flues and cowls minimised and trailing wires avoided.
  • Each boat should have available to it at reasonable charge a metered supply of electricity, gas, and potable water; and telecommunications and refuse-disposal facilities
  • Boats should not be let or licensed as short-term living accommodation, and especially not on Air B&B or any similar short-term letting scheme.
  • Boats should not be used for business purposes other than as a home-office
  • Boats should be maintained in reasonable condition and not show any substantial area of rust or flaking paint
  • Boats should be painted in suitable colours and/or in marine wood-varnish.
  • Points (12) and (13) shall apply to gangways and other equipment used with the boat as well as the boat itself.
  • Boats must not be used so as to cause a nuisance or annoyance to the occupiers of nearby vessels or people on shore.
  • Boats must be securely moored so as not to cause damage under adverse weather or tidal conditions to itself or other boats, nor to gas, electricity, or water connections
  • The buildings and commercial berths within the site should continue to be used to preserve the traditional use of the site for boat-building and boat-repair, and to continue to provide employment and apprenticeship opportunities in those trades.
  • The boats, and the area between high and low water marks, must be kept clear of rubbish, flotsam and jetsam.

We have asked the Council to tell us which, if any, of our 18 proposals have been accepted, but they have refused to do so, claiming confidentiality.  However, we have never asked for disclosure of the confidential commercial arrangements between the Council and CYBC Ltd.

These restrictions are matters of public interest on which the community should be properly informed.  We have therefore made a request under the Freedom of Information Act.  If this is refused we will appeal to the Information Commissioner.

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Registered Charity 276264. © 2022 The Chelsea Society. All rights reserved.
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