Calm after storm
POLLY and Fred Cole '“ the owners of the Fische houseboat '“ have spoken to the Herald about their relief following last week's decision by John Prescott that their giant riverside home could stay put.
The Deputy Prime Minister ruled last week that the former German naval vessel could stay in its mooring on the Riverbank, Shoreham Beach, after a planning inquiry earlier this year.
Fred described the news as "unbelievable", adding: "It's funny because, since then, we've been so tired. It's like the two years of hassle and aggravation have drained away, leaving us exhausted."
Polly added that they had received lots of cards from well-wishers and people had been stopping them in the street to congratulate them on the news.
She said: "We felt all along that the boat was completely in our mooring. We were just replacing one boat with another. We did not need planning permission and we were proved right.
"We still understand there are regulations and it does not mean we are outside the law. It has taken an awful lot of money to prove us right, and not only ours. As council tax payers, we have been paying for the other side as well."
Polly and Fred agreed that they just wanted to get the 150ft Fische ready as a home and move on.
Polly said the planning inquiry had cost more than 18,000 to fight, although they had received funding for a lot of their legal fees.
They had also received help from neighbours among the Shoreham houseboat community, who had set up a Fische fighting fund.
Peter Davis, Adur council's head of planning, commented: "This is a complex judgment on a complicated case.
"The planning inspector did say in his report that the Fische was unacceptable on the planning merits of the case.
"However, as one boat has replaced another, planning permission was not required and therefore the boat can stay.
"The appeal was actually dismissed, but now the enforcement notice covers only the ramp to the houseboat, which needs to be removed or altered within the next nine months.
"This decision does raise important local planning issues about the houseboats in Shoreham. Now that we have the judgment, the council will be meeting houseboat owners to discuss a shared way forward."