Torridge District Council has begun to clear the Brunswick Wharf site in Bideford, but boat owners who live there say officers are trying to ‘illegally’ move them.

A row has erupted over the site of a future Bideford development, as the council tries to clear boat-owners from the riverside.

Torridge District Council is hoping to transform Brunswick Wharf with new houses, shops, cafes and restaurants after securing a developer to do so.

But before it can start, the council needs to remove the boats moored at the site – something the owners claim is illegal.

Councillor Jane Whittaker, TDC leader, said: “Bideford has waited a very long time for the regeneration of Brunswick Wharf and the investment in the site will be a real shot in the arm for the town and the wider economy.

The removal of two of the boats from the East-the-Water Wharves site in Bideford. Picture: TDCThe removal of two of the boats from the East-the-Water Wharves site in Bideford. Picture: TDC

“This council is determined to deliver those benefits and so has been committed in facilitating the clearance of the wharves which is necessary for the development of the site.

“It is unfortunate that, despite considerable effort, we were not able to reach agreement with some of the owners of the boats which were alongside the wharves, but for the greater good of the town their vessels will have to be moved.”

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Sarah Golden lives aboard Juno with her husband Glyn Kemp and their four children, and said she felt TDC officers had been ‘threatening’ in their approach.

The removal of two of the boats from the East-the-Water Wharves site in Bideford. Picture: TDCThe removal of two of the boats from the East-the-Water Wharves site in Bideford. Picture: TDC

She said council officers had told her they must move to Landivisiau Walk.

“They want to move us to the other side of the river and moor some boats at Bank End; it’s just totally unsafe,” she said.

“We’d have to climb down a ladder to get on board; I’ve got a three-year-old and a dog, and can you imagine trying to get your shopping in like that?

“My husband and I both work full-time and pay our council tax and I feel the council is trying to paint us in a bad light.”

The removal of two of the boats from the East-the-Water Wharves site in Bideford. Picture: TDCThe removal of two of the boats from the East-the-Water Wharves site in Bideford. Picture: TDC

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Members of the Bideford Harbour Users Group attended the Bideford Harbour Board meeting on Thursday to air their concerns, and a meeting has been arranged for tonight (Wednesday) to discuss the matter further.

Speaking after Thursday’s meeting, Sean Kearney, TDC’s commercial and leisure manager, said: “The [two] boats that have been moved from the wharf have either been the property of TDC or have been moved under the powers of direction afforded to the harbour master.

“We are currently trying to negotiate with the owners of the remaining boats and at this stage any talk of legal action is very premature.”