BREAKING: Controversial university boathouse plans given the go-ahead by councillors

How the new boathouse at Fore Mill Wash could look

How the new boathouse at Fore Mill Wash could look - Credit: Archant

CAMBRIDGE University Boat Club’s controversial plans to build a new boathouse in Ely were today approved by councillors.

A majority of eight councillors to three voted to approve the scheme, subject to a number of conditions, including further discussion with Natural England about mitigating damage to wildlife and the completion of more ecological surveys.

The approval comes despite impassioned pleas from a number of parties, including the Wildlife Trust and Ely Wildspace, which called for the plans to be rejected and the choice of the Fore Mill Wash site re-considered.

Cambridge University Boat Club applied late last year to build its multi-million pound boathouse on 12-acres of land at Fore Mill Wash, which sit next to Roswell Pits, a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI),

Andrew Balmford, member of Ely Wildspace and Cambridge University academic, told the committee: “The proposed mitigation measure are far from adequate. All the relevant organisations believe there will be significant harm to the ecology of the site.”

Martin Baker, from the Wildlife Trust, added: “How can the district council, without an in-house ecologist, conclude that there would not be any significant harm to wildlife?”

Despite their concerns however, the majority of councillors were un-moved with only Bill Hunt, Sue Austen and Jeremy Friend-Smith voting against the proposal.

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Speaking in support of the plans, Ely councillor Mike Rouse said: “I don’t want this opportunity to be passed by. I welcome the initiative to build such a state-of-the-art facility in Ely.”

Cllr Joshua Schumann added: “I think it is a good use of the waterway and I think there will be a benefit to the community in the longer term and in terms of the proposed station gateway development.”

Although third parties cannot now appeal the committee’s decision, they can take the case to judicial review if it is felt that there was a legal error in the planning process.