Boat Race veteran calls on university to do its bit for Ely

Martin Whitworth, president of the Isle of Ely Rowing Club

Martin Whitworth, president of the Isle of Ely Rowing Club - Credit: Archant

A BOAT Race veteran has written to the vice-chancellor of Cambridge University calling on the institution to do its bit for the community in Ely.

Martin Whitworth, 88, is president of the Isle of Ely Rowing Club and a veteran of the 1944 Oxford versus Cambridge boat race, which took place on the River Great Ouse because of the threat of bombing over London.

The Isle of Ely Rowing Club has a base on the north side of the Great Ouse but is calling on the university to provide space for it in its proposed new multi-million pound training centre at Fore Mill Wash.

With the help of the Isle of Ely club, Cambridge University Boat Club (CUBC) applied for permission to build a new boathouse on a 12-acre site.

Their highly controversial application has been criticised by the RSPB and the Wildlife Trust and is set to be discussed by councillors on East Cambridgeshire District Council’s planning committee next Thursday.

Rowing club members in Ely are worried that they will not be accommodated in any approved development - despite Cambridge’s planning application assurance that “there will be practically realisable community benefit”.

In his letter to Professor Sir Leszek Boryslewicz, Mr Whitworth said: “It would do wonders with the Ely community, enhance the university’s image and take the wind out of objectors’ sails if my local club could be provided with some basic facilities as part of the proposed development.

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“CUBC benefits immensely from being able to use the river at Ely. It is my hope that you can see your way to use your influence to help the community, represented by my Isle of Ely Rowing Club, in return.”

Rowing club chairman Derek Pickersgill, welcomed Mr Whitworth’s initiative and said: “We anticipated that community benefit would extend to making suitable and affordable provision for the local club alongside the three Cambridge rowing clubs.

“Unfortunately, this does not seem to be the case and we simply cannot afford to pay the rent proposed by Cambridge for part of the site as well as the expense of building our own clubhouse.

If IoERC is unable to afford what is being offered as a ‘gift’, then there is no local benefit to anyone, rower or otherwise.”