Tuesday, 22 June 2021

Boat club on target for new HQ

GORING Gap Boat Club’s new headquarters could be up and running next summer.

GORING Gap Boat Club’s new headquarters could be up and running next summer.

The club has hit its £250,000 fund-raising target for the development after receiving a £75,000 grant from Sport England. It had already raised £180,000 in pledges and donations but could not start construction until it had all the money.

Since it was founded in 1991, the club has never had its own base and has always operated from temporary premises.

For the past few years it has kept its equipment at a field off Hardwick Road in Whitchurch. In May last year it secured planning permission for a clubhouse on the southern bank of the Thames, next to Gatehampton railway bridge.

Construction of the two-storey building off the A329 will begin next spring. It will have a covered store with racking for all the club’s boats and a workshop with a generator for carrying out repairs.

There will be space for eight rowing machines and a pontoon with enough room to launch an eight as well as 15m of moorings and 20 parking places. Once it is built, the club will seek to raise another £250,000 to fit out the clubhouse with rowing machines, changing rooms, showers, toilets and a kitchen. This is expected to take about three years.

The club, which organises the annual Goring and Streatley Regatta, applied to Sport England for a grant last year but was rejected as its bid was not detailed enough.

This time it had letters of support from seven parish councils, including Goring and Whitchurch, as well as Olympic rower Zac Purchase.

Chairman Hugh Baker-Smith said: “I don’t think we had made clear how it would benefit the community but this time we communicated that much better. This grant was pivotal and we’re very grateful to Sport England for enabling us to go ahead. They’ve come up trumps for us. They appreciate that we’re a recreational club — it’s all about widening participation. We’re the cheapest way for people to get out on the water.

“It will be great to finally have a home of our own and we look forward to kitting it out. Once people see the clubhouse is a reality they should be more willing to support the next phase of development.”

The club received a £65,000 donation from the Greenham Common Trust and a further £65,000 from five private donors who wished to remain anonymous. It made up the rest from club funds, which were raised at various community events and by selling Christmas cards and paintings of the River Thames by artist Jenny Gill.

The club spent £30,000 preparing its planning application to West Berkshire Council.

The directors of the North Wessex Downs opposed the scheme, saying it was “inappropriate” development in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty but the council felt this was outweighed by the benefit to the community.

Members said it would not be visible from the road as it would be screened by an earth bank.

To help with fund-raising, email ros.crowder@btinternet.com

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