A CANOE club which feared it would have to close after 40 years has been saved after planners gave the green light to a new riverside base.

Proposals submitted to Vale of White Horse District Council by Kingfisher Canoe Club, which has around 140 members aged from 11 to 70, to build a combined storage hut and changing facility at Abingdon Lock island were approved on Monday.

The Oxford Times:

The club has been operating from two trailers since they were forced out of their Wilsham Road base in 2017.

It had been the last chance for the group after an 'exhaustive' three-year search looking at 28 possible sites along both banks of the Abingdon stretch of the River Thames.

David Surman, the club’s youth development officer and a trustee, described the scheme as the 'only option' remaining to keep Kingfisher running.

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He said he was 'delighted' to find out the club's application had been granted and thanked the people of Abingdon for their continued support, adding: "It really has kept us going throughout this."

The new plot is owned by the Environment Agency, which has agreed to lease the land to Kingfisher, and Mr Surman said Abingdon Lock keeper Richard Hawkins had been an important part of moving the project forward.

This is the second summer Kingfisher has spent operating from two trailer stores at the lock and Mr Surman said, in an ideal world, they would have the new timber storage and changing facilities 'yesterday'.

The Oxford Times:

Abingdon Lock island. Picture: Google Maps

He added: "We still have around £20,000 to raise and need to get the lease officially signed with the Environment Agency.

"We want to start work by the end of the year and be running from the start of the next summer season."

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The club, and its youth division Pathfinders, was forced to leave their Abingdon home of 25 years at Wilsham Road in October 2017 after being given notice of eviction by the Army Rowing Club, with which it had shared the site.

Kingfisher, which has been running for more than four decades, had identified a ‘perfect’ new base in the northern corner of Rye Meadow, but its attempt to move there collapsed two years ago.

The Oxford Times:

Kingfisher Canoe Club packed up 60 canoes from their Wilsham Road base in October 2017.

Planning permission for the site, which is owned by South Oxfordshire District Council but administered by Vale of White Horse District Council, was approved in October 2016.

But in April 2017 the club was told that it would no longer be possible, legally, for the authority to provide a lease.

A community campaign, including a petition signed by 1,300 presented to Vale in December that year, called on the authority to rent the club the land needed for a new site.

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Alongside more than 120 public comments in favour of the current plans, British Canoeing chief executive David Joy wrote a letter of support, saying: “This site very much represents a final opportunity for the Canoe Club to acquire vital land to build the facility, who have struggled through for several years.

“Given that community kayaking has a 40 year history in Abingdon, it would be a huge loss if the Club was forced to close.”

To donate to the club visit kingfishercanoeclub.co.uk