A BRIDGWATER man is hoping to make a statement about the future of Bridgwater Docks when he lifts his new narrowboat into the marina this weekend.

Tim Gilbert has been working on his narrowboat Lady Jayne for two years now, with the plan of basing it at Bridgwater Docks.

However the future of canal boats at the Docks is uncertain, with the Canal & River Trust lease expiring, and Somerset County Council not planning to take on the leisure moorings, meaning boat owners have been given notice to remove their vessels from the Docks.

Mr Gilbert says by lifting his narrowboat into the marina this Saturday (August 15), he hopes to raise awareness of the plight of the boat owners at the Docks who are facing evictions.

Mr Gilbert said: "The situation at the Docks is awful. I hope by doing this I can draw some attention to the problems and action can be taken quickly to sort it out.

"The gate structures which are supposed to protect the Docks have become dilapidated, and before long you could have salt water getting into the fresh water. The marina needs management but the fact is there is no clarity anywhere on what is happening."

Ian Powdrill has lived with his wife at Bridgwater Docks for just over 15 years, and says the close-knit community of boat owners at the Docks are looking at what options they have as they face eviction.

Mr Powdrill has recently been diagnosed with cancer, and wants to stay in Bridgwater so he is close to his doctors and the hospital.

"There have been positive meetings with Bridgwater Town Council and Sedgemoor District Council, who have been helpful and supportive," Mr Powdrill said.

"The majority of boaters here want to stay, and some have been here well over a decade. We have to have some rights.

"Nobody really wants to see the boats go, the people here work and shop in the town and we have support from many local residents and businesses."

The Canal & River Trust's lease expired on Friday, July 31, and the trust is now in a rolling arrangement with Somerset County Council, which owns the Docks.

Termination of the lease is now subject to the Canal & River Trust giving three months’ notice.

A spokesman for the Canal & River Trust said: "During this time the trust will continue its discussions with Somerset County Council to agree on the remedial works needed to enable the trust to return the Docks to the council in the condition they were when the lease was originally taken on.

"This work has been delayed by the Covid-19 restrictions. However, subject to no further restrictions, priority works will start in September."

The Canal & River Trust says it is doing 'all it can' to help boaters through the coming months, whether that’s through the offer of short-term leisure mooring permits or by helping with the practicalities of moving their boats when needed.

The charity says it is also happy to discuss alternative sites for their boats.

The CRT spokesman continued: "The trust has been working with moorers regarding the establishing of a community group to manage the moorings and has put them in contact with relevant Somerset County Council staff.

"However, the final decision on the future of the Docks rests solely with Somerset County Council as the owners."

Tim Gilbert is planning to lift the narrowboat Lady Jayne in to Bridgwater Docks on Saturday, August 15, at 10.30am.