A council chairman has responded to campaigners opposing plans for watersports to take place on a lake in Nottinghamshire.
Thousands of people have signed a petition against plans for kayaking and canoeing on Balderton Lake, near Newark, which residents describe as a “wildlife jewel”.
The YMCA and Balderton Parish Council revealed plans last year to build a launch dock for boats at the lake, to be used as part of the YMCA Community and Activity Village site which is due to open later in 2022.
It will run activities to “advocate inclusion by empowering young people, especially those who are vulnerable or from disadvantaged backgrounds”.
Some residents, from the campaign group Save Wildlife and Nature (SWAN), said the plans could turn the lake into a “mini Center Parcs” and would cause “significant disturbance to the birds during the breeding season”.
But the chairman of Balderton Parish Council Councillor Ronnie White (Con), said she supports the plans and rejected claims that the plans will be detrimental to wildlife.
A meeting about the plans turned sour on May 4 and Cllr White, who represents Balderton South, said she felt she had “no option” but to close the talks early.
In a letter sent to the media, she claimed the meeting was “monopolised by a group of people who are vehemently opposed to the Parish Council’s agreement with the YMCA”.
She said that “people are afraid to actually show support of the scheme” in the village.
“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”, the letter stated.
Cllr White told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “I was disappointed in how the meeting ended.
“It’s not one sided and there are people in support of it.
“One of our councillors stood up and she got heckled by people and I thought enough was enough.
“I feel people were out for a fight and don’t want to listen to another point of view.
“I am in support of it. I wouldn’t vote for something if I thought it would be detrimental to wildlife or people’s enjoyment.
“If they were kayaking from 8am to 8pm I would completely agree with them but we’re talking about three hours.
“The lake is there for everybody to enjoy and we want to open it up to more people to enjoy.”
The letter added that the total number of people in the lake at any one time would not exceed 18.
She wrote that activities will take place for up to two hours a day term time and 4 hours non term time between April and September only.
The SWAN group said in a statement: “On the night residents were not given the evidence they had been promised, to assure them the lake is now safe and many questions remain unanswered.
“The YMCA & Balderton Parish Council (BPC) have on numerous occasions promised to produce this evidence but to date, none has been forthcoming.
The group added they and residents “remain resolute” that the council and YMCA should produce more evidence that the lake is safe.
Todd Cauthorn, Executive Director at YMCA Newark and Sherwood, said previously that ecologists have assured the charity that “no impact or harm will come to local wildlife” through the proposals.
Mr Cauthorn said: “If we understand correctly that the core concerns are the protection of wildlife and the safety of lake users, we hope that our continued sharing of official report results on our website helps to allay concerns so we can move forward positively with enabling young people to safely enjoy and respect nature as much as we do in a safe environment.”
A 10-year licence agreement between the YMCA and Balderton Parish Council was signed in January.
The YMCA said the agreement states final approval of the dock design and security must be given by the parish council before activities can start on the lake.