Council to the rescue as it buys riverside plots from Environment Agency to help preserve future of three Ely businesses

PUBLISHED: 16:18 12 January 2018 | UPDATED: 16:18 12 January 2018

The three riverside plots that were offered for sale for £75,000. Now been bought by East Cambs Council

The three riverside plots that were offered for sale for £75,000. Now been bought by East Cambs Council

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Riverside frontage at Ely put up for sale by the Environment Agency for nearly £200,000 has been bought by East Cambs District Council in a move that could protect the future of three local businesses.

The Environment Agency  put three plots of riverside mooring up for sale in Ely. The plots are the current location of three city businesses - the Hotel Water Nimf, Bridge Boats and the Boat House . The Environment Agency put three plots of riverside mooring up for sale in Ely. The plots are the current location of three city businesses - the Hotel Water Nimf, Bridge Boats and the Boat House .

The Hotel Water Nimf, boat hire firm Bridge Boatyard and boat restoration service the Boat Yard found themselves with an uncertain future after the Environment Agency offered three lots for sale at auction in September.

But the Inland Waterways Association, a national charity which campaigns for all 6,500 miles of canals and rivers in the UK, revealed today their bid to stop the plots being sold to private buyers has been successful.

“We would have preferred the land to remain in the ownership of the Environment Agency as the navigation authority for the river, but we welcome the purchase by East Cambridgeshire District Council which means that the land will remain in public ownership,” said a spokesman.

The association hopes that this will bring a more secure future to the three waterway-related businesses based at the site: Bridge Boatyard, which has been operating for over 40 years and which is now the only holiday boat hire company on the River Great Ouse, hotel barge Water Nimf and The Boat Yard boat restoration business.

Three lengths of river mooring in Ely that house three businesses - Hotel Water Nimf, Bridge Boatyard and The Boat Yard. Photo: THE BRIDGE BOATYARD Three lengths of river mooring in Ely that house three businesses - Hotel Water Nimf, Bridge Boatyard and The Boat Yard. Photo: THE BRIDGE BOATYARD

The association had described as “short-sighted” the proposed sale of the three plots of land, amounting to over 300 metres of river frontage in total, particularly because of the income the moorings brought into the Environment Agency.

The association says Bridge Boatyard brings between 2,000 and 2,500 people on to the river each year on their hire boats, the loss of which would have had a serious effect on the tourism and leisure use of the river and consequently on the economy of Ely and other towns and villages along the river through loss of visitor spend.

“After an uncertain few months for all the businesses based at the site, the announcement this week that the land would remain in public ownership through its sale to the council is welcomed,” said the spokesman.

Chris Howes, eastern region chairman of The Inland Waterways Association, said: “East Cambridgeshire District Council is to be congratulated on their acquisition and stepping in to keep the waterside businesses going.

“We understand that the council has ambitions for the regeneration of this part of the City of Ely and hope that in developing this area the current navigation and leisure activities will be preserved and encouraged.”

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