Plans are underway to remove a collection of rotting hulks from a once-beautiful backwater on the Helford River, as well as ensuring that a similar situation does not arise again.
Members of the Helford River Association met with local Cornwall Councillor John Bastin and constituency MP George Eustice to discuss the future of Anna Maria creek, on the north bank of the Helford near to Mawnan Smith.
The various parties are hoping to organise a programme of clearances which would see the decrepit boats, many of which have been abandoned by their owners, cut up and disposed of, while also creating a registration system for anyone mooring in the creek, to allow them to be traced if necessary.
Georgie Higgs, executive director of the Helford River Association, said there were two main issues: one with people illegally using boats in the creek as homes, and another with abandoned boats which had been left to rot.
In fact, the parish council secured an enforcement notice on one person living on a boat in 2010, but six years later she said the unitary authority does not appear to have taken any further action.
Mrs Higgs said: “It’s really an unpleasant sight for such a beautiful creek.
“It’s a beautiful area: It’s got charm, and elegance, it’s unspoilt. Somebody said ‘if I was here 50 years ago, and came back today, it would seem the same.’ And that’s what we are trying to do.”
The association is planning on hiring a skip and dismantling the rotting boats which litter the creek, as well as organising a litter pick event with local volunteers.
Mrs Higgs said: “I think it’s fair to say that those that are rotting, and sinking, and embedded in the mud, are safe to move. The ones that are moored are going to be more problematic.”
She added that nothing could be done about boats that were moored out in the stream, but those shore side could be dealt with.
Mr Bastin, the Cornwall Councillor for Constantine, Mawnan and Budock, said the “bottom line” was people using the creek for “a free water mooring, as opposed to going to Falmouth or Penryn where you pay.”
He said he was hoping, with the hope of Mr Eustice, to set up a register which boat owners were required to enter if they were to moor in the creek. This would allow the council to chase up owners who abandoned their boats.
One problem is that there is uncertainty about who owns sections of the river bank. The HRA and council believed it was Diocese of Truro land, but a spokesperson for the diocese told the Packet that is not the case.
Mr Bastin said it was “a bit of a no-man’s-land,” and added that some of the boats were being tied to posts on landowners property, “which isn’t fair.”
Mr Eustice said in a statement: “I am in touch with the Marine Management Organisation in order to find out who is responsible for these boats. I will be writing to relevant parties and seeking to meet with them to ensure that these wrecks are dealt with appropriately.”
A spokesperson for Cornwall Council said no permission was needed for people choosing to live on boats situated below the mean low water level, but planning permission would be required if a boat was above that line and no longer in use for navigation, which would lead to a material change of use of the land.
Regarding the boat which was served with a notice in 2010, the spokesperson said: “Cornwall Council served a planning enforcement notice on the occupier of a boat at Anna Maria Creek in March 2010. The boat was confirmed to have been removed during a site visit in September 2013, therefore the Council is satisfied that the notice was complied with.”
A police spokesperson confirmed to the Packet that an altercation recently broke out between two men at the creekside, reported locally as having been between a boat owner and a volunteer attempting to tidy the creek.
Police said “two reports of assault following an argument between two men, both in their 50s” on the morning of Friday, April 8, with neither man taking legal action.