Mum in labour forced to abandon Barking Creek houseboat to have baby
PUBLISHED: 18:02 14 May 2014 | UPDATED: 16:49 15 May 2014
A besieged, pregnant woman who is going into labour has been told she won't be allowed back into the houseboat where she lives if she goes to hospital to give birth.
Residents of Barking Creek woke this morning to find large gates had been erected around land where they moor and the area was “surrounded” by security guards with dogs.
At the end of a long dispute with residents of the Creek, Fresh Wharf Estates gave barge owners 14 days’ notice before they cut off access to the land where they moor today.
It warned residents if they leave their vessels they will not be allowed back, leaving boat owners who left for work early this morning unable to go home.
Penny Boulyaphol, 35, said her waters are breaking and described the situation as “the worst possible thing that could happen to me right now”.
She added: “It’s very stressful and I think I’m going into labour but if we leave to go to the hospital I won’t be able to come back and pick up the moses basket, sterilisers, bottles, anything!
“When we leave the hospital we’re going to have to spend our first night with a new born baby in a hotel room with none of our belongings around us.”
Nearly 60 houseboat owners say they have been forced out of their homes after Fresh Wharf increased the rate of the access fee for the land.
It said the river wall frontage would need to be repaired and the associated walkway rebuilt and landscaped as part of a scheme to build 1,000 new homes.
A spokesman told the Post last week no one was being evicted but the work would “necessitate a closure of access and withdrawal of services to boats currently moored adjacent to the site”.
Penny, who has a two-year old daughter, described the presence of the guards as “scary” and said: “I feel harassed, stressed, intimidated and terrified.
“I’ve explained my situation to the guards but they said I won’t be able to get back in if I leave.”
The mum-of-one said her neighbours who arrive back from work tonight will be “homeless”, adding that those still on their boats will be “forced to leave” once they run out of resources.
“There was nothing to indicate that this would happen to us,” said Penny.
“We were still in negotiations with Fresh Wharf and didn’t think anything was final.”
A group of Barking Creek residents met with MP Margaret Hodge to discuss their negotiating with Fresh Wharf last week.
Tenant of a Barking Creek boat, Michael Levy, said: “We thought we’d made progress after meeting with Margaret Hodge, we hoped that we had brought a settlement to the table.”
Mrs Hodge said she had hoped the issue could be resolved through mediation, adding: “I am very disappointed that it has come to this. Whatever the circumstances, it is completely unacceptable for residents, particularly those with children, to be kept from their homes with nowhere to go.”