Wildlife Trust wades into row over university’s Ely boat house plans

The new boathouse at Fore Mill Wash could look

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

THE Wildlife Trust has accused the Cambridge University Boat Club of ignoring its advice over plans to build a boat house on the River Great Ouse at Ely.

The trust said that said that the university boat clubs approached it for advice last year and were told not to build on the banks of the Ouse, advice it says was subsequently ignored.

The site in question, known as Fore Mill Wash, lies between two parts of a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), and adjacent to the protected Roswell Pits nature reserve.

The plans have been entered by Cambridge University Boat Club, Cambridge University Women’s Boat Club and Cambridge University Lightweight Rowing Club, who purchased the site on the banks of the River Great Ouse.

The clubs are hoping to develop a new Cambridge University boathouse facility on the site, which is set to measure more than 12 acres in size.

The group says that road access avoids central Ely and is as quick to reach from Cambridge, with easier access for towing vehicles and a boat trailer.

The Wildlife Trust has attacked the plans however, calling it “the wrong development in the wrong place”.

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Wildlife Trust conservation manager Martin Baker said: “The new Cambridge University boathouse could hardly have been proposed in a more sensitive location for wildlife along the Ely stretch of the River Great Ouse.

“We advised the university boat club last year that it was the wrong location for their new development, but unfortunately they have ignored us as well as other local opinion, and seem intent on putting the interests of one boat race a year ahead of valuing the local environment.

“More than just a large boathouse, the plan also includes a caretaker’s flat, dormitories for dozens of people, a gymnasium and wet dock; it is entirely inappropriate to build such a large residential development immediately adjacent to a highly sensitive and nationally significant area for wildlife.”

Wildlife Trust trustee Tony Juniper added: “The University of Cambridge is building a richly-deserved reputation for its research, teaching and convening on the subjects of conservation and sustainable development.

“It’s proposal to construct a boat house on otter habitat rather detracts from this leadership position and risks the university’s good name being mired in controversy.”