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Decision pending on plan for controversial boat club

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: October 01, 2012

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Proposals for a new sailing and gig rowing hub on the banks of the River Tamar which have divided a community could be decided by planners next month.

The Weir Quay Community Watersports Hub Club first tabled plans for replacement facilities on the river, near Bere Alston, last summer, but was forced to revise its plans after objections from the Environment Agency.

But amended plans for a boat park, a boat shed and store are now back on the agenda and set to go before councillors on West Devon Borough Council's planning committee on October 9.

The Hub Club, as it is known, which represents the sailing and gig clubs, says there are no other viable alternatives and without a new home both could close.

But opponents, more than 1,000 of which have signed a petition against the plans, believe it is unnecessary and would damage a landscape designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).

Hub Club secretary Mike Street said it was "on notice" to lose its current facilities after losing the lease three years ago.

"The sailing club has operated from there for 45 years and the gig club has been run in partnership for the last nine years," he said. "Both are thriving local clubs with membership predominantly from the West Devon area."

Mr Street said they had looked at a range of options "up and down the Tamar", but the proposed site was the only one "available and suitable for development".

The 1,000 square metre boat park would cater for around 30 dinghies and 35 small tenders while the gigs would be stored in a timber-clad building, resembling an agricultural barn.

The club has raised some £35,000 from grants and donations for preliminary works and will be looking for further grant funding to meet the £100,000 costs if the plans are approved.

Mr Street said they recognised it was "a sensitive area in landscape terms" and had sought to mitigate the impact of the development.

"If we don't get a new site the clubs won't be able to continue and we will lose two community sports clubs," he added. "I thought the Olympic legacy was about trying to support small clubs, because it is from clubs like these that the sailors and rowers of the future will come."

But the plans have prompted a storm of local protest, with the newly reformed Tamar Valley Preservation Association compiling an opposition petition of more than 1,000 signatures.

The council has received 390 letters – 191 in support of the plans and 199 against.

Vic Gardner, secretary of the preservation association, said people were opposed on many grounds, from the "excavation" of the hillside to the precedent the development could set in an AONB.

He said there were alternatives, including building a boathouse on the slipway, which many objectors would support.

"I used the river on a regular basis in the summer months," Mr Gardner said. "We are boat enthusiasts. But we just think the whole thing is too grand and out of keeping with the area. It is ill conceived, unnecessary and very damaging."

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