A star of stage and screen is hoping to gather a fleet of house boat owners to help sink an organisation which she claims is ruling the river.

Susan Penhaligon, who moors her floating home on the River Thames, at Brentford, has labelled the Port of London Authority (PLA) “bully boys” for trying to force increased mooring fees amounting to thousands of pounds on boat owners across the borough and beyond.

Ms Penhaligon, whose most famous role was in controversial 1976 drama Bouquet of Barbed Wire but who was seen more recently in Emmerdale, described the licence fee system used by the PLA to charge different rates to different boats as “shambolic”.

She is calling for a complete overhaul. She said: “It’s quite extraordinary, I’ve never felt quite such a sense of injustice.

“There are some very wealthy people on the river but there are also some poor people too.

“It’s such a complicated system, we need an independent ombudsman to look at it all and sort it out – it’s a complete nonsense.”

Ms Penhaligon claimed a small group of boat owners in Hounslow in 1995 were paying £1,939 for one riverworks licence.  In 2007, after retail price index increases she said it stood at £2,787 – but following a review in 2007, alleged the PLA was demanding £9,400.

She said one of her neighbours, 75-year-old Jill Townsend, could not afford to pay a newly-requested 273 per cent licence fee increase.

Ms Townsend said: “I have been living on the river for 28 years and I don’t want to lose my home.”

Ms Penhaligon, whose campaign for a change in the system has the support of ward councillor Andrew Dakers and Twickenham MP Vince Cable, added: “It’s like a piece of social engineering where they only want wealthy people on the river.

“You cannot turn people out of their homes.”

Dr Cable revealed that he had tabled a motion for a debate on the matter in the House of Commons.

In it he condemned the fact that excessive charge increases “risk pensioners and families on low and subsidised incomes losing their homes” and expressed concern that the PLA was “abusing their monopoly powers”.

To learn more about the campaign visit oplac.org.

A spokesman for the PLA said charges levied on boats ensured they could fund safety patrols on the river 365 days a year.

He said Ms Penhaligon “pays just £8.04 per week to moor their boat, a charge not formally reviewed in over 20 years”.

He added: “During this time property values have risen dramatically and a reassessment is overdue. Our aim is to agree the fee through discussion – if this is not possible, we will go to independent arbitration to reach a settlement.”

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