University bites back at residents opposed to Ely boathouse plans

How Cambridge University says its new development will look against Ely Cathedral from Queen Adelaid

How Cambridge University says its new development will look against Ely Cathedral from Queen Adelaide Way - Credit: Archant

CAMBRIDGE University Boat Club has broken its silence over a series of objections to its plans to build a new boat house on the banks of the River Great Ouse at Ely, saying that some complaints have been “greatly exaggerated”.

The new boathouse at Fore Mill Wash could look

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

In a strongly-worded appendix to its plans, the club responds to what it says are “common misconceptions” about alternative locations for its boathouse, views of the cathedral and impact on local wildlife.

The plans were submitted back in February, with the university clubs hoping to develop a new boathouse facility on the eastern edge of Ely at Fore Mill Wash, a site that measure more than 12 acres in size.

The application has seen more than 200 responses flood in to East Cambridgeshire District Council, with objections from wildlife campaigners and public bodies like the Wildlife Trust as well as letters of support.

Opponents of the plans say that it will harm otters and bitterns in the area, spoil views of Ely Cathedral and could set a precedent for a swathe of new development on the river.

In its letter the district council, the boat clubs said: “Our buildings do NOT obstruct the views of Ely Cathedral or the fens, unless, like a lunar eclipse, you choose to align them by standing immediately behind our buildings.

“The buildings are lower than the surrounding trees and these already create the setting for the available views.

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“Our site is not an SSSI – there is a good reason for this. It is where the Environment Agency has dredged, dumped and spread silt from the bottom of the river on a regular basis for the last 200 years.

“It is therefore of low ecological value – and will continue to be so as they maintain the right to continue doing this even though the site is now in our ownership.

“The soil is known to be poor quality farmed grassland, not the more ecologically valuable flood meadows nearby. Our site is not between two SSSIs, but on the opposite side of the river from the part of the SSSI nearest the city.”

“We are confident, having consulted with our own retained experts, that the addition of our buildings will not endanger any species and is very unlikely to have any significant effect on the wildlife.

The university added that its plans were “essential if the future of the Boat Race is to be secured for the nation”.