ST IVES Sailing Club has accused Cornwall Council of "holding it to ransom" after the authority threatened what the club says is a 600 per cent hike in boat storage fees.
In a row that has been bubbling for more than a year – but has until now seen the club remain tight-lipped – the sailing club says it is being ordered to pay an extra £2,500 on top of harbour and other fees.
The club, which celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2012, has gone public about what it says are Cornwall Council's "rapacious" attempts to "extort extra income" from them.
A message from the club's Simon Ashmore on the St Ives Sailing Club website said: "This small but perfectly formed club believe that we should not accept this from our elected representatives and their officers and that the time has come to take a stand.
"Other harbour-users will be next. If we vacate the small space that we currently occupy, the council's intention (on which they base the income which they would have us believe they have no option but to chase) would be to park more cars. One has to wonder what will be left for the visitors to the town to come and see."
St Ives Sailing Club operates from a small storage pen and shed behind the harbour in The Sloop car park.
Cornwall Council approached St Ives Sailing Club about increasing its fees in September 2012.
The proposed increase was understood to be based on the revenue the authority could earn by giving over the club's space to car parking.
At the time, The Cornishman understands, committee members hoped to compromise.
Now they have gone public with a searing attack on the council after they say all their suggestions were rejected.
Mr Ashmore is urging people to write to councillors and MP Andrew George and also to e-mail memories of the club to firstname.lastname@example.org
Mr Ashmore wrote: "We do our best to make sailing affordable to locals rather than the preserve of the wealthy. An unwarranted hike of this nature would quite simply close down our small club and put another nail in the coffin of this historic maritime community."
A Cornwall Council spokesman said: "St Ives Sailing Club occupies part of the Sloop car park on a year-to-year basis. Cornwall Council is keen to offer a more secure ten-year arrangement at a rent that reflects the value of the opportunity.
"The current rent figures being discussed would see the rent increase over a four-year period but not by 600 per cent as suggested. The rents being proposed reflect the value of the opportunity being offered but the council is also seeking to take into account the ability of the club to pay the rent.
"While we recognise the concerns expressed by the club, the proposed sum will still be a discount on the market value of the land.
"The significant cut in the council's funding means the rent holidays and discounts the club has previously enjoyed are simply not affordable any more. The club have released their accounts to us and we continue to discuss the matter with them."