The owner of Hampton Ferry is “very concerned” about its future if a riverside scout venue gets council approval.

The 1st Molesey Jaguar Sea Scouts have applied, for the second time, to build a water activity centre by the Thames.

Surrey Search and Rescue would share the centre for training purposes.

The application includes plans to create two bays beside the docking point of the Hampton Ferry by Hurst Park.

If the plans are approved, ferry owner Dave Bedford said it “would be the end” of the near 500-year-old service.

He said: “We are really concerned.

“It’s a health and safety issue- we cannot safely alight and land people with people using those beaches.”

Richmond and Twickenham Times:

The proposed bays 

Mr Bedford believes the boatshed “could be built on plenty of better sites”.

He said: “We already have bank erosion at the ferry landing - we want it repaired because people ignore our warning signs about paddling.

“People depend on the ferry which carries thousands of passengers safely over the Thames. But we will not be able to take the risk – we could not afford the insurance.”

Hampton Councillor Gareth Roberts said it “is an utterly preposterous suggestion”.

He added: “Notwithstanding the safety aspects of encouraging swimming in an already busy stretch of river, these proposals could bring about an end to 500 years of ferry service at this point of the river.

“If Elmbridge were to grant permission for this scheme it would be historical and cultural vandalism of the highest order.”

A spokesman for the Sea Scouts said: “Representatives of the project team have met with Dave and Mike to discuss the plans.

“Both organisations are working together to ensure the scheme works for all.”

There is a lot of support for the centre in the community, with residents saying it “provides a fantastic facility for young people”, and that “the scouts deserve a river based location”.

Others believe having Surrey Search and Rescue train there would “increase water safety”.

A spokeswoman for the charity said: “The centre will provide us with a vital resource, which will undoubtedly further enhance the capabilities of our life saving water team.

“It will allow us to reduce response times in the local area and to remain in readiness for any callouts for water rescue or flood situation.

“The facility will also be a clear focal point for increasing water safety awareness in Elmbridge potentially saving lives, which is at the heart of what we aim to do as a charity.”

Although there are hundreds comments of support on the application, there are also more than 200 objections to the build.

People are concerned that what is now public space would be occupied by a privately owned centre, although a spokesman for Sea Scouts said the building would “occupy less than .03 per cent of Hurst Park”.

Others are worried about the loss of view, risk of flooding, felling of 12 trees, and the impact the build would have on biodiversity in the area.

The Environment Agency commented on the application, stating: “We object because the assessment and mitigation of the risks to the nature conservation and fishers are inadequate.

“The proposed development may result in the loss or deterioration of habitats.”

The EA told the Surrey Comet: “Our objection is centred on our belief that there would be a detrimental impact on local wildlife and habitats if the development went ahead.”

However, a Sea Scouts representative said: “Any impact has been mitigated and consultation work with the Environment Agency has led to a scheme that further enhances the biodiversity of Hurst Park.

“There will be a net benefit in the biodiversity within the site and Hurst Park overall.”

He added: “There will be no loss of view- the building will be nestled within the trees and the launch area is offset to ensure that the building isn’t fully visible from the river or any residential property in Molesey.”

If the plans are approved, the centre will be named after PC Andrew Duncan, a former volunteer leader at the Sea Scouts who was killed in a hit-and-run.

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