Man's plan to sail his toy boat on his local pond have been sunk

Model boat maker’s plans to sail toy craft on local pond are sunk by health and safety chiefs who say the water is ‘too dense’ and the 57-year-old could drown if he fell in

  • Stephen Best, 57, had hoped to sail the boat with his father to rekindle memories
  • But councillors in Devizes, Wiltshire, say the water is ‘too dense’ to be safe 
  • Mr Best was told he can sail his boat if he organises a ‘regatta’ style event 

A model boat maker’s plan to sail his toy vessel on his local pond with his elderly father have been sunk by health and safety chiefs who said the water is ‘too dense’.   

Stephen Best, 57, had hoped to float the boat on Crammer Pond in Devizes, Wiltshire, with his elderly father and rekindle his memories from his youth.

The pond, also known as ‘Moonrakers’ because of its links to smuggling 200 years ago, lies next to a children’s playground and is only a few feet deep but Mr Best’s local council said it was too dangerous because of the ‘density’ of the water. 

Stephen Best (right, with fellow enthusiast Dave Whelan), 57, had hoped to float the boat on Crammer Pond in Devizes, Wiltshire, with his elderly father and rekindle his memories from his youth

Devizes councillors ruled he can only do so if he organises a ‘regatta’ style toy boat event – with proper health sand safety procedures. 

Council officers feared sailing toy boats would ‘encourage others to similarly use the pond in a less organised way’.

They said the density of water ‘could prove fatal if anyone fell in whilst trying to hook out a toy boat’.

A decision was eventually made to only allow Mr Best to use his toy boat as part of organised events.

The council ruled that way it would ensure organisers can control the health and safety of the sailings.

The pond is also known as ‘Moonrakers’ because of its links to smuggling 200 years ago. It lies next to a children’s playground and is only a few feet deep but his local council said it was too dangerous because of the ‘density’ of the water

Father-of-two Mr Best, an architectural model maker from Devizes, said: ‘I’d thought I should ask permission first and was surprised when I was told no and read the reasons why.

‘For one, there’s no life vests or safety equipment around the Crammer if it is so dangerous.

‘In terms of safety – there’s a play park located right next to the water and you have to cross two busy roads to get to it.’

Mr Best thinks the council’s trepidation around the pond stems back to previous disputes.

There have been fallings out over use of boats on the pond dating back decades.

On one occasion a man who lived in a cottage opposite lost patience with the electric boats that were causing disruption to his TV aerial.

He eventually decided to launch bricks at the floating toys.

They have ruled he can only do so if he organises a ‘regatta’ style toy boat event – with proper health sand safety procedures

A statement from Devizes Town Council said: ‘Mr Best will be invited to book the Crammer so that he can organise regatta style events, exclusively for sailing boats (being sail-powered only) for which he must be responsible to ensure the conditions of hire are met as well as Health and Safety and general management.’

The council added the permission would be reviewed in six months’ time. 

Cllr Andy Geddes also feared the decision would stifle any sort of sailing at all.

Speaking after the meeting, he added: ‘It’s like expecting trainspotters to cause disruption to railways.

‘It’s simply not in the nature of the people who would be sailing boats to cause bother.

‘The last problems were virtually from half a century ago and as I said in the meeting, I felt some of the arguments against this were contrived.’

Father-of-two Mr Best, an architectural model maker from Devizes, said: ‘I’d thought I should ask permission first and was surprised when I was told no and read the reasons why

Councillor Jane Burton also recalled the fact she, and her brother, used to sail boats on the pond.

‘I must be a rebel, as I’ve done it, I’ve sailed boats on the Crammer,’ she said.

‘I don’t think this is any more dangerous than walking across the canal towpath, where you’re more likely to get people falling in rather than falling in the Crammer.

‘And if we go back to our youth, I think we’ve all done that.’

The pond is thought also to be the origin of the Moonrakers story involving the moon and excise men.

The story goes back to the 18th century when smuggling was rife and there were many secret routes through Wiltshire from the coast.

It is said local people had hidden contraband barrels of French brandy from customs officers in the Crammer.

While trying to retrieve it at night, they were caught by the revenue men. Their excuse was, by pointing to the moon’s reflection, that they were trying to rake in a round cheese.

The legend gave way to the name Wiltshire people are still referred to as today: ‘Moonrakers.’

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