Whilst IWA would have preferred the land to remain in the ownership of EA, for future navigation income and legacy, the purchase by East Cambridgeshire District Council means that the land will remain in public ownership and as such IWA welcomes the announcement.
IWA hopes that this will bring a more secure future to the three waterway-related businesses based at the site: Bridge Boatyard, which has been operating for over 40 years and which is now the only holiday boat hire company on the River Great Ouse, hotel barge Water Nimf and The Boat Yard boat restoration business.
The three plots of land, amounting to over 300 metres of river frontage in total, had been offered for sale by private auction last summer. IWA considered that this was extremely short-sighted given that the businesses and moorings at this location bring in an income to EA as the navigation authority, and wrote to EA, the Waterway Minister, MPs and local councillors to raise concerns. As a result of the number of representations received, EA confirmed to IWA several weeks after the closing date for bids that it was reviewing the situation.
Bridge Boatyard brings between 2000 and 2500 people on to the river each year on their hire boats, the loss of which would have had a serious effect on the tourism and leisure use of the river and consequently on the economy of Ely and other towns and villages along the river through loss of visitor spend.
After an uncertain few months for the businesses based at the site, the announcement this week in a letter from EA to IWA, stating that the land would remain in public ownership through its sale to the council, is welcome.
IWA Eastern Region Chairman, Chris Howes, said “East Cambridgeshire District Council is to be congratulated on its acquisition and stepping in to keep the waterside businesses going. We understand that the Council has ambitions for the regeneration of this part of the City of Ely and hope that in developing this area the current navigation and leisure activities will be preserved and encouraged.”