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Balderton Parish Council 'clarifies' stance on watersports plans at Balderton Lake

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The chairman of Balderton Parish Council has penned an open letter to residents after the village’s annual meeting, which was abandoned when discussions about the YMCA’s Balderton Lake proposals became overly heated.

Ronnie White wrote: “I would like to take this opportunity to put to rest some of the misconceptions and rumours circulating regarding the boating activities on Balderton Lake.

“Before that, I’d like to address what happened during our parish meeting on Wednesday, May 4. We, along with our guests the YMCA, hoped to be able to answer any questions raised by local residents on the future boating activities on Balderton Lake. Unfortunately, the meeting was monopolised by a group of people who are vehemently opposed to the parish council’s agreement with the YMCA to look at the opportunity of allowing supervised kayaking and canoeing on Balderton Lake.

Parish and district councillor Ronnie White, who is chairman of Balderton Parish Council. Credit: NSDC (56938140)
Parish and district councillor Ronnie White, who is chairman of Balderton Parish Council. Credit: NSDC (56938140)

“At the beginning of the meeting, I reminded everyone present that poor behaviour would not be tolerated, that people were not to speak over others and that differing opinions were to be respected. It was incredibly sad to see that this did not happen and after numerous warnings, and as peoples’ behaviour deteriorated, I felt I had no option but to close the meeting. I was in the unenviable position of making sure everyone has their say and I’m incredibly disappointed that some people in attendance were not prepared to let that happen.

“For those local residents who attended in good faith, I am so sorry that the meeting had to be closed and that you were not able to have your questions answered.

“I felt the hostile behaviour of a certain few left me with no alternative. I would also like to take this opportunity to apologise to the members of the YMCA who were present and who received personal verbal attacks. I will not tolerate these and on behalf of the residents of Balderton, I am sorry you had to endure these both during the meeting and after.

The packed annual meeting at Balderton Community Hall.
The packed annual meeting at Balderton Community Hall.

“I’d like to give an example of this poor behaviour. People at the meeting were asked for their addresses to check their entitlement to speak, nothing more.

“Any letters that are read out during the meeting undergo the same entitlement check.

“When I tried to read out a letter from a resident in favour of the boating activities, I was accused of double standards as the author had asked for their identity to be protected.

“Indeed, it is a sad indictment that due to the behaviour of a few, people are afraid to actually show support of the scheme.

“I would like to clarify the facts of our agreement with the YMCA. The agreement outlines that:

  • Activity will only include kayaking and canoeing
  • Activity will always be supervised and will take place for up to 2 hours a day term time and four hours. non term time between April and September only
  • The total number of people on the lake at any one time will not exceed 18
  • All young people and the instructors will wear buoyancy aids/life jackets so will be safe
  • No one will actively be swimming in the water
  • No one will be diving to the bottom of the lake
  • Only one fishing peg will be altered which will provide a launch dock. However, fishing can still take place from that peg when the dock is not in use. Disabled fishermen will also be able to use this peg if it is altered which is not the case currently
  • Clashes with regular fishing match times will be avoided to minimise any impact upon members of the Grove Angling Club

“No other development will take place on the Balderton Lake side of the disused railway track (Sustrans). Any boathouse, toilets, café will be within the YMCA complex located on their side of the disused railway track.

“There have been concerns raised over the ecology of the site. The YMCA has previously performed all necessary independent professional surveys (posted on their website) and testing which shows no detrimental impact on the wildlife and its surroundings.

“However due to public concerns, the YMCA has commissioned additional surveys on birds, water voles and otters as well as an updated full ecological report. They will also be updating the water testing before use and once all the reports and surveys are complete, which will be after summer, the results of these surveys, reports and tests will be publicly available.

“Looking back on this arrangement, I would like to reassure local residents the parish council agreed to the proposal in principle back in 2017 and it has not been ‘rushed through’. This item had appeared on 10 separate parish council meeting agendas between April 2017 and October 2021, in addition to a number of internal meetings and a separate public meeting hosted by the YMCA in April 2019.

“I am well aware that sadly this letter, sent in good faith to reassure and be open with parish residents, will be picked apart again by the few.

“There are many people and experts involved in discussions around Balderton Lake and I can reassure you that we all care passionately about the lake, its wildlife and what we do. If anyone thinks differently even for a minute, it just simply isn’t true.

And to those who have hounded us on email and social media and those few who attended the parish meeting, your unjustified words really do hurt.”

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