Haggling over Thor’s club boat

Thor, the student rugby club, must leave the Nieuwe Haven to make space for Laga. The search for a new location was so cumbersome that the Municipal Council stepped in.

Members of rugby club Thor on their club boat the Voorwaarts (forward). (Photo: Justyna Botor)

There is great unrest within rugby club Thor now that its clubhouse-boat is to be permanently removed from the Nieuwe Haven. How could this happen and what to do next?

The story starts with Laga. It took years (in Dutch) of discussion, investigation, planning, permits, revoked permits, complaints, procedures, a damages claim, and ultimately an agreement before the rowing association found a solution for its accommodation issue in 2019. In the spring of that year, the student rowing association and the Municipality finally signed an agreement to move the Laga club house from its historic premises just outside the city centre to a property to be built at the Nieuwe Haven. There the association could grow without disrupting neighbours or inland shipping. However, it also brought new problems, not for Laga but for Thor this time.

The Municipality informed the student rugby club in mid 2022 that the arrival of Laga to the Nieuwe Haven ‘could not go together with its accommodation’, as a municipal spokesperson put it. Thor’s club house is a ship called Voorwaarts (forward) that has served the club for 27 years. In contrast to other boats in the Nieuwe Haven, it is connected to the sewage system, has a street number, a catering permit, and has had a rental contract for 27 years that needs to be extended every year. Or not, as is now the case.

Going round in circles
While Thor has known that Laga would be coming since 2019, the news that the Voorwaarts would have to be moved came as an unpleasant surprise. The association has even created a new seat on the Board to deal with this. Jesse Hols will take office as the Location Commissioner in September. In June, Hols addressed the Municipal Council Committee for Spatial Planning and Traffic in his capacity as a member of the Nieuwe Haven Committee. “We are a small group and the Municipality has big plans. But this is important for us. We need to leave by 1 January 2024,” he says.

‘We are dissatisfied with the Municipality’

His words apparently did not fall on deaf ears. The previous Council had agreed to Laga’s plans for a new build without being aware of the consequences for Thor. Just before the summer recess a resolution (in Dutch) was passed calling on the Municipality and TU Delft to help Thor, to which the Alderman responsible, Maaike Zwart, immediately agreed to enter into discussion. She added that ‘TU Delft has a major role in finding a solution’.

Thor now feels that it is going round in circles, says Hols. In his view, the Municipality has caused the problem, points to TU Delft for a solution, and TU Delft then does nothing. “We are dissatisfied with the Municipality. They are helping one association at the cost of another.”

Prominent role of TU Delft
The Municipality’s answers to Delta suggest that the Municipality does not feel primarily responsible for finding a solution. “The Municipality did not offer Thor any alternative locations in advance. This is because it is a temporary berth that is extended every year. Thor itself is responsible for finding an alternative location.” The spokesperson adds that the Municipality will enter into discussions from autumn 2022 onwards. “It’s intention is to actively brainstorm with Thor about an alternative location, and we see an important role in this for TU Delft.”

‘To have our own place is essential’

A TU Delft spokesperson explained that TU Delft will definitely join a meeting with Thor and the Municipality, but that it does not consider itself responsible for the housing of sports associations’ social activities. “The policy is that we support sports associations with board months, fields, personnel and materials. We have also previously offered Thor the use of joint facilities at X and informed them of the Cultuurlab in the city which other sports and cultural associations use. Thor did not want this.” According to Hols, the Cultuurlab was too expensive and the space at X was temporary. “It is essential to have our own place where we can eat and drink at low prices to foster that club feeling.”

Thor recently suggested various alternative locations for which it was prepared to give up the Voorwaarts. The current home of the Bluebirds Delft baseball association was one suggestion, as was a place on the Kruithuisweg. But the Municipality always seems to have other plans for these areas. And a Thor club house next to the sports fields on campus would contravene TU Delft policy.

Having drinks on the Voorwaarts. (Photo: Justyna Botor)

Thor Commissioner Hols still does not understand why the Voorwaarts cannot simply remain in the Nieuwe Haven, the most important ‘option’ for Thor. “Our neighbours, the water scouts, may stay as they do water-based activities and we do not. But if their boats would be arranged slightly differently and the other separate boats removed – which is the plan anyway – we would together only use one or two metres of Laga’s space. Hols says that he is not getting a clear answer from the Municipality as to why this is not an option. The Municipality told Delta that ‘it is more complicated than just the sum of a few square metres’. The loading and unloading quay on the Nieuwe Haven has to be retained, and the Province requires the harbour to be largely free to allow barges to turn.

The Nieuwe Haven is ‘very tight’
In Laga’s view, this makes the Nieuwe Haven ‘very tight’, writes Daniël Zantinge, External Commissioner for Laga. ‘We fit in the location we have been assigned, but it does mean that Laga needs every square metre.’ The design of the Laga club house, that needs to accommodate 900 members, is still not definitive. What is clear is that there will be a pontoon with several mooring arms over the water. There is as yet no occupation date. Zantinge thinks that 2025 is realistic.

‘Thor does not need to be connected to water’

He does not think that Laga, as the party that is developing the site, can do much for Thor. That said, Laga and its architect had previously looked to see if a solution could be found in the design ‘such as jointly constructing a building. But this plan was not feasible spatially, financially and in terms of deadlines’. He believes that Thor now needs to work with the Municipality. ‘We work closely with the Municipality, the Province and TU Delft, and that is how we got the new location. Building up relationships meant a lot for us, but it took many years.’

Zantinge does have hope for Thor, as his words suggest. ‘We see that it is aggravating for Thor that they are no longer part of the plan for the Schieoevers-Noord waterway. It is hard to find a new location, but it is not impossible. Thor can also be more flexible as it does not have to be connected to water.’

The Municipal Council will decide a new zoning plan in autumn that should make all the intended developments possible. In Thor’s opinion, the zoning plan should retain space for the club house as long as it is not a ‘permanent solution for occupancy’.

Editor in chief Saskia Bonger

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