Dozens of people turned out for a protest against plans for kayaking on a ‘tranquil’ lake in Nottinghamshire.
The YMCA and Balderton Parish Council revealed plans to build a launch dock for boats at Balderton Lake, to be used as part of the YMCA Community and Activity Village site, which is set to open in spring 2022.
The group of around 110 peaceful protesters called on Balderton Parish Council to rethink its plans, which have been provisionally made with the YMCA.
Karen Callingham, of campaign group Save Wildlife and Nature (SWAN), said the protest on February 19 was about showing the level of support for protecting the lake.
Up to 16 kayaks could go out on the lake at one time, which SWAN says could cause “significant disturbance to the birds during the breeding season”.
There are also concerns for the resident kingfishers which SWAN says would be at risk if the plans go ahead.
But the YMCA said its ecology report concludes that “impacts were sufficiently low and opportunities for mitigation and enhancement sufficiently great”.
Ms Callingham, whose house backs onto the lake, said: “The protest was amazing, we were overwhelmed by the support and it was absolutely chucking it down.
“People were talking to us about how much the lake means to them and it was heartwarming to hear.
“There are generations of people with a love for the lake.
“All the fields surrounding Newark and Balderton are being built on. Balderton Lake is a green oasis for people and nature to enjoy.”
The protest saw talks from residents and wildlife experts followed by a silent walk around Balderton lake led by a ‘symbolic’ giant swan.
Ms Callingham, who has lived in the area since 1987, added: “We have seen the lake evolve since we moved here.
“Our children have been brought up here. We really do need to save it.
“We feel that those kayaking numbers are to start with and this is the thin edge of the wedge. Our fear is this is like a takeover.
“They could use the lake for non-invasive, non impact reasons. We have also suggested that they use existing and well established alternatives in the area.
“If they don’t, it will decimate the wildlife which has been there for so long. Once it has gone, the damage will be done.”
Todd Cauthorn, Executive Director at YMCA Newark and Sherwood said expert ecologists have assured that no impact or harm will come to local wildlife in and around Balderton Lake.
He said community concern is of the “utmost importance” and therefore another ecological report will be carried out with extra consideration on breeding birds.
He said: “To confirm, small groups of young people would be using a small area of the lake for select times of the year only. We have no intention of disrupting the beauty of Balderton Lake; we simply want young people from disadvantaged backgrounds to learn to love and respect nature as much as we do.
“Lakes all over the world are sites for cultural and educational enrichment, and it would be such a shame for Newark to miss out on offering pioneering life opportunities for empowering our community’s next generation when no harm would come to our local habitats.
“If we understand correctly that the core concern is protection of wildlife, we hope these further surveys put people’s minds at ease so we can move forward positively with the community’s full support for the benefit of children and young people.”
A Balderton Parish Council spokesperson said: “The Parish Council believes, and has been reassured by an ecological survey that was undertaken, that allowing the YMCA to provide supervised kayaking and canoeing at Balderton Lake will not be detrimental to the wildlife that it has worked hard to encourage. Members of the Council consider that enjoyment of this beautiful facility will not be compromised with the planned activity and is pleased to be working alongside the YMCA.”