Raven's Ait Island is set to become a sailing school, after an agreement to use it as a conference centre fell through, just three months after Antoinette Hotels agreed a 50-year lease with Kingston Council.

The hotel first reduced its original offer, then backtracked on the revised figure before submitting a new amount significantly below the lowest bid received when the island was originally marketed.

Last night, Kingston Council’s executive committee handed the lease to Stewart Marine, which runs Hart's Boatyard, for a figure believed to be below the Antoinette Hotel’s original offer.

Ossie Stewart, the Olympic sailing medallist who runs the boatyard, said: “It will take us about a year to get it sorted because there is a lot of refurbishment to do. We will still be doing the functions they did there before but the sailing centre is the main thing.

“My plan for the sailing school is to have it community based. We will be getting in touch with all the schools and hopefully they will be quite a big percentage of our customers. With the council I am very much going to get as much community use as I can.”

Eco-squatters who occupied the island for three months last year lifted threats to re-invade the island, and spent last night celebrating after they declared victory in their campaign to ensure local residents could use the island.

Prominent squatter Peter Phoenix said: “It is the tail end of the campaign and we feel it is victory for some kind of community us. Due to our campaign, Antoinette Hotel have pulled out and it will mean the community can use it for a certain number of hours a week.

Antoinette Hotel managing director Paul Buzasi, who last November said he was “absolutely delighted” to have won the lease, refused to explain why the hotel had reduced its original offer.

He said: “As far as I know the offer is still on the table and we are waiting to hear back. It is a substantial offer.”

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