Tideway Village forms part of a larger houseboat community moored next to Battersea Power Station. Tideway Village consists of three houseboats – the Layla, the Newark and the St Michael, home to 25 people that are moored in one of the Thames’ last tidal docks. In spring 2010, we heard that Tideway Industrial Estate had been sold to a developer named St James, a subsidiary group of Berkeley Homes, who specialise in riverside developments. Whether we thought the development added or detracted from the area wasn’t an issue but a very significant threat arose whereby a public consultation was held locally, to which none of the boat residents were invited, showing a floating garden in place of the boats.
Through a barrage of emails, we persuaded the developers to hold another public consultation where we made our feelings clear – we wanted solid reasons why they were making us homeless, what alternatives could they suggest, we had been there for ten years, it was our home, why would they want to move us, surely we added to the surroundings rather than took anything away, etc. The developers did not see our point of view, and were it not for campaigning in the media, lobbying our local MP and councillors, writing and gaining the support of over 1700 signatures from all over the world, the developers would not have changed their plans. In October 2010, we held a Campaign Action Day, where we printed t-shirts and handed in a pack containing the petition and various letters of support to the planning officer at Wandsworth Council.
Eventually planning permission was given to the development on the condition that the boats could stay and we celebrated a minor victory in the campaign.
Over the winter, talks went quiet and naturally the community became nervous. Nine Elms Pier is next door to Tideway Village and holds approximately 20 boats with about 80 people living there permanently. The owners of the pier were offered a significant sum by St James to demolish the pier and rebuild into a new marina. The residents had mixed opinions about this, but the main idea would be that the new marina meant higher rent/fees, which of course most people were against. Planning permission was sought but due to the overwhelming response against the planning application, the applicants withdrew the application.
St James suggested that Tideway Village should move onto the new Pier but as there is no timeline for building the new pier, we refuse to move out of the dock before securing a long term lease on the new pier. At the moment we are being a three-month lease, which is obviously not good enough for permanent residents. St James gave Tideway Village their obligatory three months’ notice in June, which meant that 20 people would be made homeless on 8th September. Their excuse was that work needed to be done to the dock wall and the boats were too close to the dock wall for the boats to remain whilst the work was done.
After unsuccessful negotiations between David Waterhouse, the landlord of two of the boats in Tideway Village and St James, we were at our wits’ end, almost. David drove down to the CEO’s office in Cobham, Surrey and hand delivered a letter explaining our plight. Shortly afterwards, the CEO was in contact and arranged a meeting between the Chairman of St James and David, which was slightly more successful in that we have been granted a new lease, St James have worked out a way for the work to be done to the dock walls from land without moving the boats, and we can remain for the foreseeable future.
Uncertainty remains in the air; however, as we do not know when St James will ask us to move (they still remain with the point of view that we will need to move when the flats are built). Our frustrations as tenants remain that the fact that we have a complete lack of rights, less even than tenants who live on land. We are permanently moored, and are all working professionals, so the “river rat” image has long since died, why shouldn’t we have a right to be housed remained one of our key issues.
We are a thriving community full of fascinating individuals ranging from dancers and actors to social workers and movie crews. We have so much to contribute, as was demonstrated in an Open Day we held in August 2010 where many people from the local community came and shared in the talents we had to offer, which you can see here.
(for the early days, read here)
Please support us, come and visit our 'special place' and sign the petition to save this hidden treasure of central London.