YES TO BOATHOUSE: Officers give controversial plans green light but now councillors must decide fate of University club house

The new boathouse at Fore Mill Wash could look

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

CONTENTIOUS plans for a two storey Cambridge University Boathouse on the banks of the Great Ouse at Ely have been recommended for approval by East Cambs planners.

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

The Wildlife Trust, the RSPB, Natural England and hundreds of residents have voiced their opposition to the 12-acre development, to be built at Fore Mill Wash, citing concerns over destruction of local wildlife and views of Ely Cathedral.

However it will now be up to the planning committee of East Cambs District Council to decide the application next Thursday.

Planning officer Sue Finlayson believes that due to “the design, positioning and height of the building” views of the cathedral will not be adversely affected.

And she says it is the view of officers that the proposal would not result in significant environmental harm.

She describes the design as “innovative and simple in rhythm will be genuinely be rooted in its setting which will become an organic part of the riverbank is attractive as boathouses traditionally have been.”

She said Cambridge University Boathouse “has carried out a thorough inspection of alternative sites and there would appear to be none available. There are significant benefits arising from the proposal.

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“The location of the new boathouse in this position would remove the need for rowers to use the most congested part of the river and other river users will continue to be able to use the river for leisure purposes.

“On balance, provided suitable conditions are attached to any consent granted, the

application should be approved.”

Liz Hunter, chairman of Ely Wildspace said there was great concern over the ecological impact of the plans, especially on the population of otters and bitterns, and called for the club to consider alternative sites.

Last week, Cambridge University Boat Club broke its silence over the plans, calling some of the complaints over the development “greatly exaggerated”.

It 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.

“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 planning committee will consider the plans on May 9 at 2pm in the council chamber.