News of the Caversham Lakes watersports venue’s closure has been met with mixed reactions from people in Reading.

The popular attraction announced on Tuesday, March 26, that it was closing after what it called ‘unnecessary planning processes’. The park opened without planning permission in 2020 – then failed in its bid to get retrospective permission from South Oxfordshire District Council.

Many people reacted to its announcement with sadness – though others criticised the owners for not having got planning permission first.

Replying to the announcement on Caversham Lakes’ Facebook page, Virginia Spencer said: “I discovered open water swimming at Caversham Lakes.

“I’m not a strong swimmer and the lake always felt safe. I loved seeing ducks and moorhens and having geese and swans swim overhead. I’m very sad this has been taken from us.”

Stephanie Turner said the lakes had been her ‘happy place.’ She said: “It had a massive impact on my life at a truly awful time! This place changed my life for the better. A crying shame that such a magical place is not going to be available for us to enjoy.”

But other people suggested Caversham Lakes’ owners should shoulder some responsibility for the closure.

Responding to the news on The Reading Chronicle’s Facebook page, Andrew O’Hare said: “Unnecessary Planning Process"? You mean actually applying for planning like everybody else BEFORE you go ahead and do whatever you want?

“Business operating illegally without planning is forced to close. I know everyone loves the place but if the whole world operated like this it would be chaos.”

And David Quinton said that if owners had ‘done the right thing from day one this would not have happened.’

The closure of Caversham Lakes comes after owners lost an appeal against Oxfordshire District Council’s decision to refuse planning permission.

The council rejected their retrospective application in 2021 due to environmental concerns.

In the statement on Tuesday, owners said the council had forced Caversham Lakes to close because it ‘did not want such a great leisure venue to exist.’

They claimed the lake had always had ‘recreational use for general public access,’ which they believe means they shouldn’t have needed planning permission.

But the government’s planning inspector disagreed. In a decision made in January, the inspector said the site was intended to be ‘used for nature conservation and not for recreational activities.’

The decision also said the number of people swimming in the lake at peak times ‘far exceeds what could reasonably be described as an informal activity.’