Rowing towards final lake decision

Verdict awaited next week on long-awaited project

by Mark Lewis

A SCHEME to bring an international standard rowing lake to Willington reaches council bosses for a decision next week after years in the planning pipeline.

Bedford Rowing Lake Ltd has applied for permission to set up a course around 2,300 metres long and 96 metres wide, covering an area of 84 acres.

The lake has already been nominated as a potential training venue for foreign Olympic rowers competing in the 2012 London games, and is a key part of Bedford's efforts to promote itself as a base for a national team during the competition.

It is also tied in with longer-term hopes of creating a new country reserve on the edge of the town, the Bedford River Valley Park.

Both projects took a step forward in May when the Marston Vale Trust announced it had bought the 300-acre Willington Quarry, earmarked for transformation under the park initiative over the next 25 years.

The purchased land is due to take the eastern end of the rowing lake, intended to run from near Bedford Town Football Club to the River Great Ouse north of Willington.

According to planning documents, the lake "will bring about the creation of a range of new aquatic, marginal, and terrestrial habitats of value to wildlife, and through appropriate new planting will result in the reinforcement of the positive features of the landscape character of the Marston Vale".

However, opposition has come from railway supporters who have said the rowing lake will sink hopes of reconnecting Bedford to Cambridge by train.

They have argued the lake will take a 120-metre chunk out of the route of the dismantled line between the towns, which they want to see rebuilt to improve cross-country travel.

The rowing lake application is due for a verdict from county council planners next Thursday.