A watersports centre in Millwall Dock faces a turbulent future – but has vowed to press on despite strong headwinds.
The future of Docklands Sailing and Watersports Centre has been placed in jeopardy after the development of Westferry Printworks was cleared by outgoing Mayor of London Boris Johnson , who overruled Tower Hamlets Council.
The buildings threaten to disrupt wind patterns on the waters, making life difficult for children who are trying sailing for the first time.
Developers say they will provide a pontoon to take children further into the dock and away from trouble, but that may not be enough.
DSWC chairman Martin Young said: “We won’t know [what we face] until we get a final decision on how much money is going to come across – although this isn’t only about the money. If we can’t sail there’s no point in having any amount of money.”
Disruption could come as early as next season with cranes rising to build the development, which has four towers.
Mr Young said: “It’s not going to be impossible to sail all the time but if the difficult sailing conditions coincide with the early part of the season when we’re trying to get the kids into the boats and it’s blowing all over the place then it’s not going to be worth the candle.
“The developers think that a pontoon can go further out into the dock but you’ve got to get kids in groups of about 20-30 along a long pontoon through a turbulent conditions and then into the boats, it’s going to be very difficult – but we’ll give it our best shot.”
The centre’s operators fear that income from corporate clients from Canary Wharf and individual sailors could drop by as much as 20%. This is money that funds the charitable trust that gives inner city schoolchildren the experience of sailing.
Mr Young said: “Worst case scenario is that the charitable programme becomes unsustainable and we drop off as a provider of sailing for the community. And if we give up the charitable sailing then there’s no purpose in having a charitable trust and the site will probably fall in for development. That’s the worst case scenario.
“Best case scenario is that we battle through and we’ve got enough staff to keep the children safe and we can just deal with it.
“I wouldn’t want people to think we’re just going to shut – we’re going to fight on.”
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