Group ‘fears for future’ of community boatyard plan

thisisoxfordshire: Jericho Wharf Trustees, from left, Bruce Heagerty, Steve Watts and Peter Stalker. Picture: OX69018 Cliff Hide Buy this photo Jericho Wharf Trustees, from left, Bruce Heagerty, Steve Watts and Peter Stalker. Picture: OX69018 Cliff Hide

FEARS have been raised over the future of a community boatyard after it was claimed essential mooring sites may not be available.

Members of the Jericho Wharf Trust (JWT) want two permanent bankside sites for narrowboats to be created on the Oxford Canal as part of the Castle Mill Boatyard redevelopment.

But the group claimed the Canal & River Trust – which looks after the country’s canals having replaced British Waterways in 2012 – indicated there were none available.

JWT spokesman Peter Stalker said for the boatyard to be commercially viable, which trustees see as key to the long-awaited redevelopment of the site, the moorings must be included.

He said: “It is like having parking spaces outside a car garage.

“You need to be able to ensure the smooth flow of boats in and out of the facility and also that some smaller works can be done on the towpath.

“If we cannot get these sites we would need to look again at how this boatyard would operate.”

Mr Stalker added the JWT had met with a representative of the Canal & Rivers Trust in February. He claimed: “It was indicated to us verbally that the sites would not be available. But we would like to work with them on this.”

Neil Owen, acting waterway manager for the Canal & River Trust, said no formal application had been made for the mooring sites.

But he said there was limited room and to create them, it was likey moorings for temporary visitors would have to be sacrificed.

He said: “There had been a meeting in February between the Canal & River Trust and the JWT to discuss the development. JWT made it known that they would require a number of moorings for the boatyard.

“Moorings along the canal are limited so it would be difficult to add extra spaces without losing popular and much-needed visitor mooring points. It would need to be carefully considered along with the impacts extra moorings will have on the local area.”

It comes after the recent eviction of Oxford narrowboat holiday business College Cruisers from a site next to the boatyard land, on Saturday, after they failed to reach a new lease agreement with site owners Cordatus Partners Limited.

Jericho ward city councillor Susanna Pressel said she was concerned by both issues.

She said: “The boatyard needs these mooring sites to function and we also need College Cruisers to be there for the boatyard as a whole to flourish.”

Plans for the redevelopment of the boatyard area have not yet been approved and are expected to go before Oxford City Council this autumn.

The developer, Strategic Iconic Assets Heritage Acquisition Fund (SIAHAF), has faced criticism for not meeting Oxford City Council’s policy of 50 per cent affordable housing – with just seven out of 22 homes being affordable.

Spokesman Nick Band suggested it would be possible to build other affordable homes on another site.

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