A nervous wait for sailing club

PUBLISHED: 17:44 03 August 2006 | UPDATED: 11:56 04 May 2010

THE future of Ely Sailing Club is hanging in the balance in its 60th anniversary year following the announcement that its Roswell Lakes home is up for sale. We reported in the Ely Standard last month that The Thomas Parsons Charity, which owns the lakes,

THE future of Ely Sailing Club is hanging in the balance in its 60th anniversary year following the announcement that its Roswell Lakes home is up for sale.

We reported in the Ely Standard last month that The Thomas Parsons Charity, which owns the lakes, is selling the site because the land "doesn't fit in with the charity's investment portfolio".

Clerk to the charity, John Aspinall, said recently: "The charity is not in the best position to exploit the development potential of the land."

But the sailing club has said its membership, made up of more than 120 people from across the district, only found out the land was being sold when they saw the estate agent's advert in the local press.

Clare Christan, commodore at the club, said they have been invited to put in an offer for the site - but were given a deadline of just a few weeks to raise the £225,000 needed for the lakes.

"We've put in an offer," she said, "but it's nowhere near the asking price - we are asking the Thomas Parsons Charity to give us an interest-free loan. It is just too much money for a club to get together."

As well as the benefits to its members, it is hoped the purchase of the land by the sailing club will also preserve the picturesque nature of the site and its status as a home to local wildlife.

"It really is a special place," Mrs Christan said. "I don't think the people of Ely realise it could be sold, developed and lost."

Fears that the site will be developed beyond recognition have been exacerbated by a potential buyer who told members of the club on a recent visit: "I would only have to build one house here to make my money back", while another said he would demolish the clubhouse.

A spokesperson from the Environment Agency said the north-west bank of the site is a Site of Special Scientific Interest, making it difficult to develop, but Cheffins, which is handling the sale, advertise a "unique leisure opportunity with development potential" for the rest of the lakes.

Ely Sailing Club now faces a nervous wait to see if its offer will be accepted, and the wait will be all the more agonising because the club's lease has run out. Although it has rights of renewal under the Landlord and Tenants' Act, there are concerns the sailing club will ultimately be priced out of the site.

"Whoever buys it couldn't just chuck us off but they could get us out by gradually raising the rent, and we just couldn't afford it," added Mrs Christan.

Club members have maintained the trees, lawns and banks at the site, but Mrs Christan said the greatest shame would be to lose the club's extensive youth programme.

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