An evicted canal boater could be taken to court over unpaid debts totalling more than £48,000.

George Ward - who was removed from the Kennet and Avon in Bradford on Avon this year - has been sent a letter from Grimsby law firm Wilkin Chapman LLP asking him to pay two Canal and River Trist invoices of £1,314.68 and £16,061.29.

In total, the law firm is actually demanding £17,381.97.

Mr Ward, 62, who is disabled and relies on state benefits, said: “The Canal & River Trust is doing everything it can to escalate the outstanding amount thus far demanded with the use of excessively priced subcontractors.

“The Trust is now demanding money with menaces in the full knowledge that I am a vulnerable person who relies upon disability benefits (ESA).”

The first bill relates to unpaid licence fees of £989.68 from May 1 2022 to May 11 2023 for his boat the March Hare and the £325 cost of courier fees for returning some of his possessions.

The second and larger bill relates to unpaid licence fees of £1,109.29 for the period May 1 2022 to April 19 2023 when his boat Celtic was removed from the Kennet & Avon Canal.

The cost of the removal was billed by the Trust as £12,369 for the use of one contractor and £2,583 for a second contractor.

A Canal & River Trust spokesperson said: "Taking action against a boater only happens after they refuse to follow the rules over a long period of time, during which the Trust has repeatedly tried to resolve the issues with the customer.

“Boaters facing serious difficulties are put in touch by the Trust with support organisations as well as receiving support from our dedicated Welfare Officer.

“Whilst we do not publicly discuss the specifics, including financial details, of individual cases, it is important that boat owners make the important contribution towards the cost of keeping our canals open and safe. 

“The ageing network is facing huge financial challenges, not least with the recently announced future cuts in Government funding.”

Following the removal of the March Hare on May 11, Mr Ward, 62, lived in a tent on the canal towpath near Bradford on Avon.

He was forced to leave in August after the Trust obtained a fresh court order for trespass at a Bristol County Court hearing on July 26, which he failed to attend.

Mr Ward is registered disabled and claims state benefits. His eviction ended a three-year battle with the Canal and River Trust, which manages 2,000 miles of the country’s inland waterways.

The Trust obtained eviction orders in January and told him to remove his two unlicensed boats, the March Hare and The Celtic, from the canal, which he failed to do.

The Trust tried but failed to remove the March Hare on April 19 when he defiantly locked himself inside but succeeded in removing The Celtic.

The March Hare was later removed on May 11. Both boats were transported to a storage yard near Chester and Mr Ward was told they would be sold unless he could find the money by October 13 to get them returned.

Mr Ward was told he needs to pay £30,743 for the removal of the March Hare on May 11, plus the £1,314.68 to cover licence fees and courier charges to return personal items removed with his boat.

That means he now owes the Trust a total of £48,118.97 in costs relating to the removal of his two workboats. He has been given 30 days in which to pay the latest invoices.