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Angling Trust chief executive Mark Lloyd brings you this week’s blog.
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Weymouth Angling Club’s future hangs in the balance
I’M SORRY to go on about Weymouth Angling Club again this week, and the bone-headed attempts by the local Council to try and bulldoze the 40 year old club house to make space for more car parking spaces, but I do so because this is much more than just a local issue affecting one club – it’s something that affects us all, no matter what we fish for, or where we fish.
This issue is symptomatic of a national failure to grasp the importance of angling for individuals, for local communities, and for the economy. I went to the meeting of the Harbour Management Committee of Weymouth and Portland Borough Council early on Tuesday morning to support the club and saw the decision-making process in action.
It was very clear that although several councillors and the Mayor all understood the issue, several members of the committee just could not understand that angling was a fundamental part of the local economy of the town.
In the end, the Committee granted Weymouth Angling Club a three-year extension on its lease to stay in the building it has rented for nearly 40 years on the harbour-side in Weymouth. The Committee also resolved to increase the rent to commercial rates, although a Council grant may be available to reduce the impact of this increase.
This decision overturns a previous decision at a meeting of the Harbour Management Board on October 21 to give the club a ten-year lease, which I cautiously celebrated at the time in this blog, aware then that this week’s meeting could overturn that result. As it happens, the Committee’s decision leaves the 113-year-old club’s future hanging in the balance once more.
The issue has been the spotlight of a national and international campaign, supported by the Angling Trust, that has seen local councillors bombarded with e-mails and an e-petition secure more than 1,500 signatures supporting the club. The clubhouse has hosted numerous national, European and World Championships and the club has generated many international competitors who have gone on to represent England.
It was built with 50% funding from the club in 1974, with several club members helping with the construction. Although we made this case to them over and over again, their attitude was obvious: it’s just an angling club and we need to make money from this site from parking or re-development.
Please feel free to contact Councillor Peter Chapman to let him know what you think of his treatment of the club. He has led the proposals to evict the club on the basis that the inner harbour should be re-developed, although there is no plan for the re-development and no developer has been identified.
His proposal is to convert the area into more car parking, despite it being adjacent to several car parks which are never full, but which benefit significantly from people using the clubhouse. He apologised unreservedly to the angling club at the meeting yesterday for failing to consult them about his demolition proposals, but this admission did not stop him forcing through a vote for the short-term lease at yesterday’s meeting.
I think he should hang his head in shame at the way he has treated the angling club and the other 15 community groups that use this centre. They all breathed a sigh of relief after his earlier proposals were overturned, but he has pressed on, disregarding the many other councillors and the Mayor, who have all spoken in passionate defence of this important institution in the town.
The Angling Trust will stand by the club and its members and fight for a long term solution that protects this vital resource for the good of local anglers and the thousands of visitors from other parts of the UK and the world who recognise that this is a world-class centre for sea angling that should be celebrated and protected rather than threatened with demolition.
Please help us to fight this and other battles for angling around the country by joining us at www.anglingtrust.net/join or calling 0844 7700616 during office hours.
Thanks for your support.
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