Squatters on ‘pirate island’ boats in River Itchen, Southampton block work to clear eyesore wrecks

SQUATTERS living on boats in the middle of the River Itchen are blocking work to clear eyesore wrecks.

Several abandoned boats off Northam Bridge have been daubed with graffiti declaring the group of vessels “pirate island.”

Abusive insults have been spray-painted on the boats directed at ABP Southampton which is currently undertaking work to clear the so-called boat graveyard.

Messages on the vessels read: “this is my home”, “this is pirate island,” and “I claim adverse possession”.

But workers – who by the summer cleared 22 vessels – have been met with a barrage of “abusive” behaviour, bosses at ABP told the Daily Echo.

READ MORE: 22 wrecks removed from Southampton boat graveyard on River Itchen

A spokesperson said: “Safety is a core value for Associated British Ports (ABP) and that is why there is an ongoing program to clear wrecked and abandoned vessels across our jurisdiction in Southampton.

“With 22 wrecks removed from Northam on the River Itchen in July this year, we have had positive feedback from local residents and river users, as solving this issue ensures a clearer, safer environment for all.

“We are sorry to say that during this process, our colleagues have encountered instances of abusive… behavior from some of the individuals occupying these boats.

“This is something that we will not tolerate. We are working with the relevant agencies to resolve these issues, so that our important work can continue.”

Adverse possession in Britain allows squatters to claim ownership after occupying land for more than a decade.

But residents living near the river say that the squatters are not permanently living on board the boats.

Daily Echo:

Rob Corbidge lives in a flat with his balcony overlooking the boats.

The 49-year-old said: “I have no idea who’s on the boats or how long they’ve been there.

“I question if that is their only home like it says in the graffiti.

“I don’t think it is because some nights I will be working late and not every night they will have lights on down there.

“They are not always active on board and I don’t think they permanently live there but I couldn’t be sure.”

Members of Coalporters Amateur Rowing Club, based alongside Northam Bridge say they have spotted small boats heading back and forth from the abandoned boats.

Daily Echo: Bill FitzpatrickBill Fitzpatrick

Bill Fitzpatrick from the club who has been rowing for over ten years says that it’s “not a nice feeling” rowing around the squatter’s boats.

The 72-year-old said: “They don’t pay to have their boats here when others pay a lot of money up the river to have their boats on the water.”

A Hampshire police spokesman said: “We are aware of ongoing incidents involving a number of boats based on the water near Northam Bridge in Southampton.

“We are in the very early stages of our investigation and are conducting inquiries to ascertain the exact circumstances – working closely with relevant partners, including the Associated British Ports.

“Inquiries remain ongoing. No arrests or further action has taken place at this time.”

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