BOATERS living on a stretch of Oxford canal are trying to fight eviction by buying back the land they moor on.

Five residents of Jericho's Castle Mill Stream have banded together to form a company and say they have applied to buy Network Rail's land.

In February, the transport company installed signs threatening 'trespassers' with prosecution, before sending out eviction letters warning boaters they had until March 21 to leave.

Now, boaters have come together and formed a non-profit company.

The Oxford Times:

Pictures: Ed Nix

The group are all settled residents on the stream – which runs alongside the Oxford canal near Oxford station – and have lived there for nearly 35 years between them.

Steve Watts has lived there 19 years, Juan Pablo Ramos six, Beatrice Pan four and Elliot Smith for six months

READ AGAIN: Castle Mill Stream boaters threatened with prosecution

The other, 70-year-old Ed Pope, has been there four years. He explained: "We feel the best solution for Castle Mill Stream is moorings run by the boat dwellers themselves.

"We can pay for this with affordable mooring fees and make the area a pleasant public space."

READ MORE: Network Rail send eviction letters to Oxford boaters

In a statement, Castle Mill Stream Moorings Ltd explained: "For years (Network Rail) have ignored (the land), but under pressure from Oxford City Council they put up signs and attached letters to our boats warning of eviction."

The Oxford Times:

Disputing the council's claim that the area has seen various incidents of 'serious anti-social behaviour', it continued: "We agree that it requires proper management to prevent a cycle of abandoned boats appearing. However, we believe that the area and surrounding community is better off for the presence of permanent residential moorings.

"Stationary live-aboard boats provide the area with individuals who have a vested interest in the safety and upkeep of this otherwise dark corner of central Oxford."

ALSO READ: Jericho Boatyard: Work on latest plan 'could begin in summer'

Network Rail's Communications Manager Matthew Thompson said the land is 'being occupied without consent' and that it was 'working with Oxford City Council, the Canal and River Trust and the Environment Agency to resolve this matter'.

Responding to the statement, he said: "To date the boat owners have been regrettably unwilling to leave. We are now proceeding to move this matter forward. We remain open to talks and meeting with the occupants to reach a resolution.”

Asked if the company would consider selling the land, he added: "We are currently considering all options, but our priority is to bring the land back into permitted use as required by the City Council."

The boaters argue that having the moorings run by boaters 'would ensure the area does not fall into further disrepair' and keep moorings affordable.

They add that charging mooring fees would 'prevent boat abandonment and make any anti-social behaviour less likely'.

The Oxford Times:

A heron on Castle Mill Stream

They say they are 'preparing a planning application for residential moorings, including floating pontoons, a water tap and a sewage disposal point, all to be financed by our mooring fees'.

The City Council did not comment.

The boaters have also created a petition to be allowed to stay and manage their own moorings. It can be viewed at https://bit.ly/2ZdxMWs