The authorities have pulled the plug on a three-year stay by a group of boats illegally moored on the Thames.

The group, dubbed "water gypsies" by people living nearby, were given notice to leave the river at Teddington Lock this week after three years of illegal living.

They must move within three days or they could be taken to court.

Richmond Council, along with Kingston Council, the Environment Agency and the Marine Police Unit carried out a joint operation on Wednesday, July 23, which saw the removal of 33 boats.

Other river users said the group’s boats blighted the stretch if the Thames for years.

Richard Turk, managing director of Turks Launches, which operates on the Thames, said the group gave that part of the river a "bad name".

The 35-year-old said: "Turk Launches is a company that carries tens of thousands of tourists a year along a beautiful stretch of river and it is a great shame that such an eyesore has ruined that part of the river for locals and visitors alike.

"It is also very unfair on all other river users who understand the importance of paying licence and mooring fees, as well as the proper discharging of waste into sewers and not the river."

The council made attempts during the past three years to remove the boats - with varying success.

It is currently awaiting confirmation of a byelaw which would see unauthorised mooring on public land become a criminal offence.

A spokesman from the Environment Agency said: "The operation is taking place in order to check on a range of offences that are being committed by people mooring on the riverside.

"The main role of the Environment Agency as part of the operation is to check that people at the site are registered for mooring and to find anyone that is there illegally.

"This multi agency operation is very common and we are work with the police on a regular basis to carry out similar checks."