COMMUNITY leaders in Jericho say they are sorry a squatter who kept Jericho boatyard clean has been evicted.

Ross McTavish was living at the disused boatyard for over a year, according to residents.

It is understood that Mr McTavish was evicted on May 16 following a hearing at Oxford County Court the previous week.

But members of Jericho Community Association say the squatter acted as an unofficial security guard for the boatyard and the neighbouring St Barnabas vicarage.

Vice-chairman of the community association Paul Hornby, 61, of Walton Crescent, said Mr McTavish, who was in his late 20s or early 30s, had been living in the empty old forge building at the boatyard for more than a year.

He said: “He kept the boatyard clean and because he was living there then he kept other undesirables away.

“The vicarage is right next to the boatyard so in a way Mr McTavish became an unofficial security guard for the boatyard and the vicarage.”

Mr Hornby said he changed the locks at the boatyard and at first the agents for the landowners were not aware that he was there but then they found out and issued him with a writ.

Photographer Adrian Arbib, also a member of the community association, added: “He painted buildings and kept it clean. It seems a bit mean-spirited to evict him.”

In 2006, boaters occupied the boatyard after landowner British Waterways decided to sell the site for development. But in 2008, a planning inspector dismissed plans for homes to be built there.

Four community groups have been negotiating to buy the boatyard, after developers Spring Residential went into administration.

A spokesman for Oxford County Court confirmed that on May 10 Judge Charles Harris QC issued a possession order for land at Jericho boatyard and referred the matter to the High Court for enforcement.

PriceWaterhouseCoopers took over the boatyard site after Spring Residential went into administration.

A spokesman said: “Cordatus, which is managing the site on our behalf, issued the eviction notice.”