WHY HAVE A NEW FACILITY, AND WHAT’S THE HURRY?
The member clubs have no shore base, having vacated our previous premises in September 2013. Particularly vulnerable are the youth training programmes which are entirely dependent on boats and equipment being stored close to the public slipway. This slip is the only public access to the tidal estuary of the Tamar on the Devon side. It would be a tragedy for the whole Bere community if these watersports clubs were lost.
WHY HAVE A ‘COMMUNITY HUB CLUB’?
All our research showed that by forming an umbrella hub club as a Charitable Company Limited by Guarantee we would be able to attract more money from funding bodies than if we were just two small separate sailing and gig clubs.
The two clubs don’t want to amalgamate, at the moment. Forming an umbrella club makes it much easier for decisions that affect the shore facilities used by both clubs to be taken. Calling it a hub club rather than (say) a joint club makes it clear that the two clubs are still separate.
The two clubs already do work with other groups within the local community, such as the Sea Scouts and Bere Alston School. ‘Community hub club’ recognises this. Similarly, ‘watersports centre’ recognises that one or two other small groups of river users, such as canoeists, might want to join the hub club at some stage.
WHAT HAPPENS IF YOU DON’T GET PLANNING PERMISSION?
We’re delighted to say that we have been granted planning permission and so the Hub Club can move to the next stage of securing tenure on the land and raising funds to begin the development of the new facilities.
WHAT HAPPENS IF YOU DO GET PLANNING PERMISSION BUT CAN’T AFFORD TO BUY THE SITE?
Permission is for a watersports facility only and not any other kind of development. We are confident that with our clear development plan adequate funding can be secured to create a fit for purpose watersports facility. We have now raised sufficient money to buy the site.
WHY BECOME A LIMITED COMPANY (AND A CHARITY)?
Companies limited by guarantee enjoy certain protections that are valuable when undertaking relatively complex and costly work (relative to the size of the two clubs that is). Given previous painful experience of losing leased premises nobody wanted to repeat that solution. Having ‘trustees’ hold the land on behalf of the two clubs was also complex and nobody wanted to undertake the responsibility.
As regards charity status, our eventual plan is to become a Charitable Incorporated Organisation (CIO), when that becomes legally possible. This new hybrid of company and charity has been in preparation by government for some years and may become an option this year. Meanwhile we have applied to become a charity.
The reason is some potential donors feel reassured if the organisation to which they are giving is a charity, because of the way charities are regulated. So it may be easier to raise money for the hub club if can register as a charity. There are or may be additional tax benefits, and also certainty about local rate reduction rates. We are already seeing some of the benefits of being a charity with significant donations having been made or planned which are dependent on our charitable status. Read more in the management section.
YOUR CHARITY’S OBJECTS IN YOUR ARTICLES OF ASSOCIATION EMPHASISE PROMOTING AND INCREASING PARTICIPATION IN WATERSPORTS AND RELATED ACTIVITIES FOR THE INHABITANTS OF WEST DEVON. YOU’LL BE BRINGING PEOPLE IN FROM ALL OVER WEST DEVON TO USE THE CLUBS’ FACILITIES, WON’T YOU?
No, we won’t be ‘bringing in’ anybody. The existing clubs cater for people from all over Devon. The clubs control their own membership. So participation is a matter for them. But we can’t squeeze a quart into a pint pot. The clubs specified what size of facility they wanted us to develop: there is no room in the new site’s levelled dinghy or gig parks or stores for more than a couple of new dinghies for the sailing club. There certainly isn’t room for more clubs or other watersports apart from, say, a small rack of canoes.
There are currently no restrictions on public access to the hard and the river, other than those that result from its tidal nature. The new facilities are most likely to appeal to those residents who are already river users, so the level of use of the area is unlikely to increase above present levels.
It is our intention to promote watersports and in particular to improve the quality available at Weir Quay while reducing their impact on the local environment. Indeed, the Sailing Club and the Gig Club can only survive by regularly attracting new members.
Having said all this, water usage at Weir Quay is a reflection of society at large. If hundreds of new houses are built on the edge of Tavistock, for example, it is inevitable some of the people living there will venture down to the Tamar to launch their boats from the public slipway. Some may apply to join one or other of the clubs. If there is room they may be accepted – by the clubs.
IN THAT CASE, HOW CAN YOU CLAIM TO BE A CHARITY WORKING FOR THE BENEFIT OF THE WIDER COMMUNITY OF WEST DEVON WHEN YOU CONSIST OF TWO SMALL QUITE LOCAL MEMBERSHIP CLUBS?
There are no restrictions on membership numbers by the clubs, only on space to store boats and related equipment. Anyone from the local area who wishes to take advantage of the opportunity that the clubs offer to become more active participants in watersports will be welcome to join either of the member clubs, at rates set by the clubs themselves and subject to their own assessment of space. They will then be able to take part in club activities and use the club-owned boats, canoes, clubhouse etc., as and when they wish, subject to tide, weather and so on.
WHY THIS SITE?
A thorough analysis of all possible sites was undertaken at the start.
Friends of Weir Quay in their Bere Link article have stated the Mount Edgcumbe Estate has offered to lease to us an area of the foreshore south of the hard. This was discussed with the Environment Agency and Natural England and rejected as a non-starter in our sites analysis.
WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO WITH THE FIELD?
We need to await our architect’s revised plans to answer this question fully, as it will give the levels. Provisionally the plan is to dig out approximately 1000m2 (16m x 60m) of the lower part of the field to create a level hard-standing for dinghies and tenders and a level site for a simple agricultural-style wooden building for gig and sailing stores and a small fireproof outboard engine store. So the hard-standing and stores will, apart from a view in from the entrance, be out of sight from the road, and most vantage points. Indeed on the new site the dinghies etc will be less visible than they are now.
HOW MANY MORE PEOPLE WILL BE USING THE CLUBS?
Neither the sailing nor the gig clubs expect to increase their membership significantly.
HOW MUCH MORE TRAFFIC WILL THERE BE?
We don’t expect any: the Hub Club is for the same two clubs, with the same members, travelling from their same homes to do the same things and for as long and for as often as they do now.
WON’T IT INCREASE ACTIVITY AND TRAFFIC AT WEIR QUAY?
We are not planning any increase in membership or club activities. The project is all about protecting and maintaining participation.
WHAT ABOUT THE CAR PARKING?
Our planning application includes some car parking on the new site. This will improve parking, as will the adjacent AONB project at the silver mine car parks.
It should be noted any parking issue at Weir Quay is caused by the general public and not specifically members of the sailing and gig clubs. This is a reflection of society more widely, both the increase in car use and increasing population in West Devon through new housing development. Weir Quay users include walkers, particularly those who cannot manage hills or need to use disabled appliances for which the flat road is ideal, bird watchers, dog walkers, ramblers, and people just enjoying the views and a picnic. The public slipway is also used to launch boats, particularly speed boats and jetskis, by people who are not members of the two clubs.
WHAT ABOUT SHOWERS, TOILETS AND OTHER AMENITIES?
We currently use showers and toilets in the Cleave Farm barn. Our plans for the clubhouse are still in development. They are not part of our present planning applications. In the draft plans for the clubhouse, which we showed at the public consultation, we included a shower and toilet block with a disabled toilet, 3 separate toilet cubicles and two urinals and two shower cubicles and 4 communal showers.
WHY SO FEW FACILITIES?
It’s all the two clubs need and almost the same as we had in the previous premises. It also complies with Sport England’s recommendations for such facilities in relation to the number of users. Anything bigger would be too expensive and take up too much of the levelled dinghy and gig park space.
WHY IS THE CLUBHOUSE SO BIG AND FLASHY? WON’T IT STAND OUT LIKE A SORE THUMB?
Again we need to await the architect’s revised plans which will define the levels of the site. The architect Steve Rickhards, who is another volunteer, has not yet completed the design of the clubhouse as it will be in a later phase, and tackled when we can find the funds. Therefore in our first planning application the size and location is indicated, but not the detail. This will be the subject of a later application.
The building will be set back into the hillside at the back of the dinghy park, at the new, lowered level, and will be hidden from view behind the Devon Bank. So like the dinghy hardstanding and stores we think it will only be properly visible through the entranceway. Obviously it will be seen from the river and beyond.
The size is roughly the same floor area as our old clubhouse. Clearly having decent shower and toilet facilities is essential for proper youth training, and indeed for older members of the community taking vigorous healthy outdoor exercise.
As for the design being flashy, the committee agreed the initial architects illustrations, as presented to the public consultations, did look stark. We have since asked for the design to blend as well as possible with its surroundings, and to be sustainable.
YOUR NEW SITE IS IN A WORLD HERITAGE SITE, AREA OF OUTSTANDING NATURAL BEAUTY, CONSERVATION AREA AND ABUTS A SITE OF SPECIAL SCIENTIFIC INTEREST AND A MARINE CONSERVATION AREA. YOU CAN’T BE SERIOUS ABOUT GETTING PERMISSION FOR DEVELOPING A SITE THAT HAS ALL THOSE PLANNING AND DEVELOPMENT RESTRICTIONS?
We are serious, and take preserving the attributes of the area very seriously too. We have worked closely with all the planning and other bodies that cover the site and they support our proposals because they either want the area to continue to be used responsibly and sympathetically or because our site will be less visually intrusive than our dinghy and gig parks are now.
Don’t forget the sailing and gig club members live locally and we love the special nature of the peninsula and river too. We don’t want to do any damage to our environment but we do need to find a new home for both our clubs so that we can continue to enjoy this wonderful area and river – doing the same things for the same amount of time with the same number of people as we do now.
An alternative would be to close our clubs, so preventing club members (local people) enjoying what they responsibly use now.
WHAT ABOUT THE SOCIAL USE OF THE CLUBHOUSE?
Ultimately, if funds allow, we plan to have a small bar and social room run by and for club members, as we had in the Cleave Farm Barn. Our licence would be the same as before with limited opening hours and restricted to club members. Anything else would not be financially viable.
The more important uses of the ‘social areas’ in the clubhouse will be for training, including fitness training, and occasional meetings (see below). Both the Sailing Club and the Gig Club have large social events at different points in the year. These will continue to be held at other venues as our clubhouse will not be on a scale to accommodate them.
ISN’T THIS A RE-HASH OF THE FLOATING CLASS-ROOM THAT WAS TURNED DOWN A FEW YEARS AGO?
No. That was a completely different concept. This is simply two small clubs moving from their current expired leased site to a new place.
WON’T IT PUT OTHER LOCAL HALLS OUT OF BUSINESS?
We don’t think so. The clubhouse, if and when we eventually get permission and money to build it, is planned to be about the same floor area as the one we lost. So it will hold about 50 people. That is not enough for a full members meeting of even one of the clubs. So we expect the usual usage of local halls to continue for AGMs and social events. We will however have our own place for lectures, training and similarly heroic nautical activities.
THIS WILL OPEN THE FLOODGATES TO OTHER DEVELOPMENT?
We have previously made public a letter from WDBC Chief Planning Officer explaining why this cannot happen. Here it is again:
From: Jane Hart Sent: 30 November 2010 08:34 To: Robin Musgrave Subject: RE: Weir Quay Community Watersports Hub Club
Thank you for your email.
I hope that I may be able to reassure anyone who may have concerns that a new building for community use could potentially open the floodgates to other types of development.
Planning policy, at all levels, draws a very clear distinction between appropriate developments of benefit to the local community and other types of more commercially motivated development, including housing. At a National policy level PPS7 takes a highly restrictive approach to most forms of development in rural areas yet positively encourages local planning authorities to identify suitable development sites for community services and facilities (para 6 (iii))
At the local level the adopted West Devon Local Plan overtly acknowledges that “the provision of community facilities is extremely important to the health and vitality of settlements (para 4.144)” and associated policy H44 allows for such facilities in appropriate cases. The same plan however maintains a strong presumption against residential development outside settlements and resists other forms of development that would be harmful to the environment of the AONB. Accordingly, I can give a firm assurance that if planning permission were to be given for a building on the basis of its community benefit it would most certainly not set any precedent for allowing other types of development in the vicinity.
I hope that the above explanation of policy is of some assistance.
Chief Planning Officer, West Devon Borough Council
May we add we value the peace and tranquillity of Weir Quay as much as everybody else. That is why we sail and row there. We cannot stop society changing in the next 50 years as much as it has the past 50. We don’t know what those changes might be. We do feel Weir Quay’s best protection is a united community of all the local people who use and love this waterside area.
WHO CONTROLS THE FACILITY?
The Board controls the facility day-to-day, on behalf of the sailing and gig clubs. The Board is controlled by the ‘legal’ members of the company, two from each club, who act much like shareholders on behalf of the two clubs. So they effectively control who are directors and make changes to the way the company operates through its Articles of Association. For more details see the ‘management’ section.
WHO HAVE YOU ASKED?
Have a look at the Planning section where we have included information on the consultations we have undertaken. The answer is just about everyone.
BEING NEXT TO A MEDIEVAL SILVER MINE ISN’T THERE A RISK OF CONTIMATED SOILS AND DUST AND WATER RUN OFF?
Yes, but it is very small and the site is judged professionally to be perfectly suitable for this use. We have had a professional survey of the site, including an analysis of soil samples. There are traces of arsenic and lead in the soil, as there are all over the Bere peninsula. Details of this can be found at the Planning section together with measures we are required to take to manage such risks.
WILDLIFE IS IMPORTANT TOO. WHAT IS AT RISK AND HOW WILL YOU PROTECT IT?
We recognise the importance of wildlife and have taken this into account in the plans. We have carried out a survey of the 0.85ha site and the surroundings to establish the nature and extent of the habitats present and the nature conservation value of each. The bulk of the site is species poor cattle grazed pasture, of very limited conservation value, while the roadside hedge and bank is of more interest. While there are bats on the silver mine site there are no structures or mature trees on the site to provide roosts for them and the site has been checked for the presence of badger setts, none being found. A reptile survey has been carried out on the site, and no slow worms, lizards grass snakes or adders were recorded. There is no standing fresh water, so there are no amphibian breeding sites.
Because the site is surrounded by extensive pastures, the loss of 1000m2 of pasture would be of no significance and only a short (10- 15m) section of the hedge and bank will need to be removed to create the site access. The project will have no impact on the most ecologically valuable area, the former silver mine as it is not part of the site, and none of the areas known to support glow worms will be adversely affected.
It is our intention to use the process of creation of the boat park to enhance local biodiversity by increasing the species richness of the disturbed soils on the grassland by adding locally native wildflowers and by planting patches of scrub species to provide better habitat for invertebrates (including glow worms and their mollusc prey) birds, reptiles and small mammals, including foraging bats. A new hedge and bank will be created down the slope along the northern boundary of the site.
ISN’T ACCESS FROM THE SLIP, ACROSS THE ROAD, AND ROUND A BLIND CORNER, AMID CARS, HORSE RIDERS, WALKERS AND CYCLISTS A RECIPE FOR DISASTER?
We don’t think so and have consulted with the planning authority and transport authority as detailed in our planning application. It is simply a case of turning right along the road at the top of the public slip, rather than left as we have done in the past. From the top of the slip it is not a blind corner, but of course from along the road either way it is. There will be no great difference in usage. However we will take these issues into account in the design of the access to our site on the east side of the road.
WON’T IT BE A BUILDING SITE FOR YEARS?
We think of the project in three phases.
Phase 1 is to purchase the site. This won’t make any mess at all.
Phase 2 will be to create access to the site up a 3 metre bank, dig and level the land so as to make it usable for boat parking, flatten out the areas for the eventual buildings, bring in electricity and water, and install a septic tank. So all the earth moving will be done in one go. We do not expect to start until we have the funds available to complete it. Phase 2 will also include putting up the boat shed, which may or may not be part of the same funding package, but the earth moving will already have been done. So once started we expect to complete all the messy part in one go.
Phase 3 will be to build the clubhouse. Again we will not begin work until we have the funds available to complete the task. The digging will have been done in Phase 2.
SURELY THERE ARE BETTER SITES THAN THIS ONE?
No doubt there are, but they are not available. Please see our analysis of possible sites.