Ambitious about water sports in the city

The annual raft race on the River Dee is one of the great events of the Chester calendar and this year was no exception, with Chester Rotary Club and its President, Brendan Witter, exceeding all expectations yet again. It was a wonderful day and raised lots of money for charity.

There are always a couple of competitors who unfortunately don’t realise that it’s part of the tradition to be bombarded with water bombs and flour. And that bloke with the…well, I’m not sure what it is, but he stands atop a jet of water about thirty feet in the air above the river and gives each raft a good soaking…anyway, it looks like great fun.

The river is one of the best assets of our city. On a summer’s afternoon it is grand to walk along The Groves and get an ice cream, or watch the birds fishing on the weir.

Because of geography, it is also naturally a perfect river for rowing which is why we have several great rowing clubs in Chester, and indeed why our annual rowing regatta is one of the very oldest in the country.

Cheshire West & Chester Council has an ambitious plan to extend access to rowing and other water sports by building a new watersports centre on the site of one of the rowing club buildings on the Queens Park side of the river. It is a fantastic concept and will give many more schools, and residents young and old, the chance to get out on the river.

There are a couple of problems however. It will cause greater disruption in the Queens Park area, in terms of increased traffic and possible noise from the bar late at night; and it might cause a section of the meadows to be built on, if only to make a larger car park.

I certainly don’t want the meadows built upon under any circumstances, and although this part of the meadows – it is the Barnfield, immediately next to the residential area of Queens Park – is slightly separate from the main pastures, I don’t want it tarmacked over either. Nor do I want residents in Queens Park to face greater traffic and noise disruption.

But I do want a watersports centre and I want everyone in Chester to be able to use it.

These are tough choices that the council has to make.

I am fortunately not a councillor, so my role is simply to make sure everyone is treated fairly and has their views listened to. I am pleased to say that residents have been talking with council officials for some months and are approaching a solution all can live with, with a formal planning hearing to come. Here’s hoping for a solution that will benefit everyone and make the best use of our wonderful River Dee.

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