Sunday, 07 August 2022

Water sports centre in fresh bid for permission

Water sports centre in fresh bid for permission

THE operators of an outdoor water sports centre operating without planning consent have made a fresh attempt to continue.

Cosmonaut Leisure launched the attraction at Caversham Lakes, off Henley Road, in August 2020 despite being refused planning permission due to concerns over its impact on the environment, wildlife and biodiversity.

South Oxfordshire District Council, the planning authority, also said the development would increase traffic on the access road and the company had failed to demonstrate a safe and convenient route.

Cosmonaut submitted a retrospective planning application for a change of use of the site a month later but this was rejected.

The company appealed, which meant it was able to continue operating and now it has submitted a fresh application.

Cosmonaut uses the northern lake for open water swimming, paddle- boarding and kayaking. It has also been running an adults-only private island with a private “beach”, sun loungers and bar.

The new application covers the current facilities including a reception area, changing rooms, a kayak and canoe store and a counter for dispensing food and drinks. A covering letter says: “Caversham Lakes would deliver significant, social and health, economic and environmental benefits for the local area and for South Oxfordshire as a whole.

“Use of the lake for leisure and sports and the ancillary facilities is focused towards north lake’s eastern bank. This leaves the majority of the lake unfettered by the proposed use, which operates at greatest intensity between the beginning of April and early October.”

The application has attracted both opposition and support from residents.

Marek Walford, of Bellingham Walk, Emmer Green, said: “A venture such as this is simply not compatible with wildlife and this application should be refused.”

Sara Fulbrook, of Westfield Road, Caversham, said: “I don’t think any of the concerns have been addressed, in particular the impact on nature.”

David Marshall, of North Street, Caversham, said: “I regularly use this location for walks and escaping the busy centre of Reading. The works to the lake were done without proper permission and have caused significant loss to biodiversity. This has not been compensated for elsewhere and can only be reinstated by the removal of the business.”

Caversham and District Residents Association says the planning application contains “significant inaccuracies”.

Chairwoman Helen Lambert, said: “The documents submitted do not match the activities offered and advertised.

“The site is now being used and advertised for music festivals, camping, weddings, fireworks and markets and regularly remains open into the evening.

“The recreational and sports use of the lake are 6am to 8pm but events regularly continue late into the evening and beyond the time advertised.

“Contrary to the information submitted, the entrance road is single track with some passing places and inadequate for the traffic arising from the range of activities on offer.”

Mrs Lambert added: “The record of the company in adhering to the necessary standards does not inspire confidence.”

Residents of Henley Road have previously complained about the inadequacy of the access to the site.

Eye and Dunsden Parish Council has raised concerns about wildlife and road safety and said the business had shown “little regard” for planning conditions.

But Hilary Sharp, of Harrogate Road, Caversham, said: “The new facilities at Caversham Lakes are great.

“I hope that they get the planning permission that they need. They provide a valuable service to the people of Reading.”

Lucy Teixeira, of Darell Road, Caversham, said: “The area is a huge success for those wishing to swim and with all the recreation on offer.

“It’s a great opportunity to repurpose this area with fitness at the forefront.”

Vivienne Simpson, of Burnham Rise, Emmer Green, said: “I use the lake for swimming almost every day that it is open. The benefit to my mental health is immeasurable.

“I see the lake in all its glory, including the natural habitats and the wildlife that enjoy this place as their home.

“I am delighted to see so many young people and families enjoying this asset to our local area.”

Public consultation on the application closes today (Friday).

• What do you think? Write to: Letters, Henley Standard, Caxton House, 1 Station Road, Henley or email letters

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