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Sawbridgeworth canoe club accused by East Herts Council of trespass on town meadow

A canoe club faces losing its Sawbridgeworth base after organisers were accused of illegal use of council land, trespass and planning breaches.

Whoosh Canoe Club has been operating from The Reedings since April 2019 where it placed a shed and a storage rack and prepared the site for more storage and to improve river access in order to develop the club.

But in a post shared on the Sawbridgeworth Facebook group, club chairman Peter Nash said: “We received notice on August 26 from EHDC (East Herts District Council) that they intend to withdraw the licence within 14 days – therefore we are now likely to lose access to Reedings Meadow for paddling activities.

Whoosh Canoe Club (42217616)
Whoosh Canoe Club (42217616)

A statement from East Herts Council said: “We have not evicted the canoe club, but we are trying to stop the continued illegal business use, trespass and breach of planning requirements on council-owned land.

“Whoosh has an annual pedestrian access licence to cross a piece of green belt land at Reedings Meadow to allow canoeists to reach the river.

“Concerned local residents told us some months ago that the meadow land was being accessed regularly by numerous vehicles and a structure had been put up. Our inspection showed that the illegal structures and canoes were on the land.”

The council said the club had been contacted and instructed to stop the illegal use but the requests had been ignored and the number of structures had increased.

The club had been given 14 days from August 26 to remove the structures, but after an inspection last week they were still there.

The statement added: “We will inspect the land in the next week before making any decisions on the termination of the pedestrian access subject to the illegal structures being removed.”

Whoosh runs a series of activities for various groups on the River Stort including disabled people. Members also carry out litter picks and have been involved in clearing non-native invasive species from the river.

Mr Nash said: “I have written a response to the council... as the chairman of the club and lodged this with the legal services property lawyer at EHDC to explain our proposals as a club.”

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