Boat business scuppered by loss of main premises

College Cruisers owner Carys Bruns and her sons Johnathan and Michael

College Cruisers owner Carys Bruns and her sons Johnathan and Michael Buy this photo

First published in Oxford Mail: Photograph of the Author by , Reporter covering Witney and West Oxfordshire. Call me on 01865 425483

OWNERS of a Jericho boatyard say their business has been put in jeopardy after they had to leave part of their site in the middle of the season.

College Cruisers, which has been at the site for 40 years and has been run by Charlie and Carys Bruns since 1996, had to leave about two-thirds of the boatyard – including a boathouse and car park – on Saturday when their lease came to an end.

It will make way for the Castle Mill Boatyard development, which is yet to be granted planning permission.

Mrs Bruns, 54, said she asked for a three-month extension from receivers Cordatus Partners Limited to reach the end of the season, but instead the boathouse and car park will now be boarded up.

She said: “To expect a small family company like mine to up roots in the middle of the season is very difficult. It’s incredibly sad that it’s come to this.”

The redeveloped Castle Mill Boatyard will include a piazza, community centre, housing and facilities for canal boat owners. It is owned by Spring Residential Limited, but after the firm went into administration in 2009, the land has been in the hands of the receivers.

Developer Strategic Iconic Assets Heritage Acquisition Fund (SIAHAF) has applied to Oxford City Council for planning permission, but a decision is not due until the autumn.

College Cruisers had a short-term lease with Spring Residential for the part they had to give up. The company has 30 years left on a separate lease for the rest of the boatyard.

Mrs Bruns said she had long been aware her boatyard was vulnerable to the redevelopment and got planning permission to build a two-storey boathouse for the remainder of the site, which also includes mooring space for about 10 narrowboats.

Construction was put on hold while she awaited the outcome of the Jericho Wharf development, so the company is currently based in temporary cabins.

Mum-of-two Mrs Bruns, who commutes from Stratford-upon-Avon, said she wanted to work with SIAHAF to reach a deal in which she could use the community boatyard facilities and use her experience to help run it.

Jericho Wharf Trust spokesman Peter Stalker said: “We’re very disturbed about this and we think it makes no sense at all either for the administrator, developer, business and certainly not for the Jericho community because College Cruisers is an important local business.”

Nick Band, spokesman for SIAHAF, said his company had agreed with College Cruisers that it could stay for another six months, but was overruled by the receivers.

He said: “We are dismayed by this action as we were very happy for the company to stay there. When the transaction is complete it can come back.”

Cordatus Partners director Mike Channing declined to comment.

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