“Save our yacht club!” » call because it is ordered to leave the site at the edge of the canal


Pictured: administrator John Rowlinson, club manager Sarah-Jane Elvin and paddle sports instructor Rose Austin; on the barge, office manager Jan Dorling

A COMMUNITY boating charity faces permanent closure after City Hall says it must vacate its historic site. Islington Boat Club (IBC) – which generations of children have used – could close amid accusations of mismanagement from both sides.

IBC officials have been told the council will not allow them to renew their lease when it expires at the end of this year.

In the words of Sarah-Jane Elvin, Director of BAC: “We received notice of the end of the lease – that is for the building, the site and the access to the water. Without it, we cannot function.

The yacht club was closed abruptly in May after a council inspection said the building it operates presented a safety hazard. Until recently, the IBC held out hopes of working with the council to negotiate a new lease and reopen next April.

But the town hall’s asset managers claim the club breached the terms of their contract by letting their building fall into disrepair, adding they will oppose giving the club a new lease.

In return, Ms. Elvin argues that the council failed in its duty as owner of the site.

“They came to do checks every year,” she said. “As owners, they own the property – they have their own duties.”

Ms Elvin added that the council’s decision to close the site was ‘so sudden’, giving the charity no warning that repairs needed to be made.

She said, “Therein lies the crux of the problem: we don’t feel that the council is supporting us. The lease has expired. We’ve been trying to negotiate a new lease for years, and only now have they said, “Your lease is ending.”

Amid internal fighting, thousands of people were diverted from the water.

“Between May and July, we canceled 144 reservations, or 1,600 people who were supposed to come,” Ms Elvin said.

She fears the council wants to turn the yacht club into a ‘shopping centre, where you pay and show up to get on the water – but then you lose the youth training and the community’.

The charity has now launched a campaign to be allowed to stay, calling on locals to write letters of support to councilors and MPs.

“We need a lot of voices – I’m sure they’re there,” said Jan Dorling, CBI office manager.

The IBC claims to be able to operate from its barge, parked on the water.

“We are not asking [the council] do anything but let us stay here,” Ms Dorling said. “We started on the barge, we will continue on the barge. We don’t care about the building…all we want is to be able to walk through that door and into that yard.

“We need official permission for this to happen. The club has a very productive future ahead of it, but we have to be able to do it.

The Islington Boat Club opened in 1970 after activist and journalist Crystal Hale dismissed the threat of turning the City Road Basin into a car park.

Fifty years later, Ms Dorling said: “I personally think it’s [Crystal Hale’s] heritage that is in danger. She and the other members around her have done so much to save the pool.

She added: ‘The reason she did it was so the kids could play on that water safely. We’ve been able to provide that for about 50 years, and it hurts not to be able to.

A City Hall spokesperson said: ‘Islington Council has had to close the Islington Boat Club site as dangerous structural and electrical health and safety issues have been discovered at the site. This was necessary to protect the safety of club users.

“The council considers City Road Basin to be a unique and special resource. The council want it to be fully used by the local population for water activities and are very disappointed to have had to close the site.

“Islington Boat Club is a charity and is not funded by the council. “As an independent organization responsible for the site, they must show they are capable of addressing the issues which led the council to close the site and that they can prevent similar problems from happening again.

“The board must have confidence that the site and the club will be run properly and safely.”


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