Our long running battle to create PedalPark at former RAF Coltishall has gone from Go Go Go to No No No thanks to a lack of Ho, Ho, Ho spirit at Norfolk County Council towards cyclists. By doing this, the County Council has missed the opportunity to “have their cake and eat it” and utilise the sites dormant assets, build for the future and create a new iconic venue in parallel.
Simon Coward, the managing director of Hethel Innovation (the commercial business appointed to run the site by Norfolk County Council), having produced his second strategic direction for the site in 8 months told Pedal Revolution the news on Tuesday. The dis-used and run down site in the middle of no-where, without high speed broadband, without drinking water is to become another high tech Science and Technology business park. Furthermore, he does not want cyclists on “his” business park. His decision, on behalf of Norfolk County Council, is to drop all forms of sport and leisure that were included in his first strategy published in the spring. He told us bluntly that it’s going to be a “business park” and closed to the public.
Having been strung along since Hethel Innovation’s appointment 12 months ago we have listened and watched them over the last 12 months. In our opinion they have just taken an easy decision and decided they do not need the hassle of riff-raff like us riding around “their” perimeter road in the evenings and weekends. They also, in our opinion, seem to not need the £300,000 or so that our contract was worth as their performance target appears is based on the occupancy of a small number of buildings within the newly created Enterprise Zone (which our clubhouse falls outside off). I got the opinion that their attitude is very much “if it doesn’t happen, it can’t go wrong” and they do not need the hassle of Pedal Park alongside their Business Park.
Pedal Park would have utilised the sites currently dormant assets and would comfortably sit alongside a new business park elsewhere on the site. Indeed, many current tenants where planning to take out membership and take full advantage of the new facilities. So rather than generate a sizable income from the unique asset the site has inherited (the 3 mile perimeter road would be Europe’s longest closed road circuit) they want to transform the site whose current tenants include the Prison, the Fire Brigade, a model railway supplier, a plant retailer, a film studio and a couple of builders yards into a technology focused business park. Maybe it’s the waiting list for units at the Norwich Research Park or Hethel Innovation’s other Technology park at Hethel that has brought about his decision. No, neither of these is near fully occupied!
They are absolutely no valid reasons why Norfolk County Council cannot find a way to have their cake and eat it – taking our revenue for an existing dormant asset alongside the revenue of the new business park. What landlord wouldn’t want that Commercial gain and the right community decision set against the wider picture of Council accountabilities.
After 12 months of being strung along by Simon Coward and being told we are a big part of the site’s plans, 2 cancelled opening events, a successful pilot event with North Walsham Velo Club, 4000 people through the gate for the Tour de Broads, full planning permission granted, commercial agreement, final contracts received from his legal team including the title deed documents, funding offers from North Norfolk Council and with Broadland Council, Sport England and Active Norfolk championing the site to become a community cycling centre for recreational, sporting and educational riding, Simon Coward has ditched us at the last moment and left us high and dry and around £50,000 out of pocket. Aaaaaahhhhhhhhh! I don’t think Simon Coward should expect any Christmas cards from cyclists this year...
Norfolk County Council could easily have their cake and eat it at Scottow. Take our revenue for use of half the width of the perimeter road out of hours, take our investment in a derelict building outside the Enterprise Zone and build their vision for a business park. The massive site is capable of absorbing us both. All the given reasons for not wanting cyclists at the site do not stack up. Yes it would be more hassle for Simon Coward and his team and not probably help towards his performance targets but the benefit to Norfolk, the wider Health and Well-being accountabilities of Norfolk County Council and the impact to the local economy would far out way this.
Clearly, the way we and the cycling community have been treated does not fit with the park’s new ethos of nurturing new businesses and helping them grow. A smaller or less established business to ours would have crashed with the owners and staff left without a livelihood after 12 months of promises but no income. Surely, this is not a leadership behaviour we expect or deserve from our County Council? If you agree I wonder if the best way to show this is to ask your local councillor for a public open review of why Norfolk County Council cannot have its cake and eat it. Pedal Park and the Business Park side by side on this enormous and iconic Norfolk site is achievable and in the public interest.
At Pedal Revolution, we still have the resources, skills, support and business plan to make Pedal Park happen. We have supported local cyclists and the community for over 18 years and we will continue to passionately find a way to create a safe environment for people like us to enjoy the UK’s fastest growing sport. Just ask your local County Councillor why they can’t have their cake and eat it!
RAF Coltishall is within the fabric of Norfolk history. It has seen many changes over the years and means so much to so many people within our county and beyond. At Pedal Revolution, we have been working hard with the landlords, Norfolk County Council, to bring life back to the site and create Europe's longest traffic-free road cycling venue. We passionately want to support the heritage of the site and continue to evolve how local people enjoy such an iconic landmark in the heart of our county.
PedalPark aims to bring an innovative and vibrant new lease of life for a new generation to appreciate the site's history and build it a new and inspiring future. Cycling is the UK's fastest growing sport, it is family and socially inclusive and a key weapon in the NHS's fight against our obesity crisis. Whether you cycle to compete, to get fit and feel great or just to enjoy leisure time with friends and family, PedalPark will offer you a safe and engaging and challenging proposition.
When we originally signed our first agreement with the landlord back in December 2015, we were given the expectation that PedalPark would be open by the spring, This slipped to Summer and now we regretfully have to announce that 2016 has been lost because of frustrating delays and snags in the process.
The current picture is:
The sticking points are now:
So we are frustratingly close to pulling off this ambitious plan. We are on the verge of creating something amazing.
What can you do to help? Wish us well, keep your fingers crossed and make sure your local Norfolk County Council member is aware of your support for this community venture. It will be great business for Norfolk County Council, great for cyclists and a great opportunity for creating positive community outcomes at a site that will remain part of Norfolk's proud heritage and a firm part of its exciting future.
You can find out who your local councillor is and how to contact them.
Cycling is now, according to Sport England, the UK's fastest growing sport attracting people of all ages and abilities. The team behind PedalPark team have created transformational community outcomes by engaging, inspiring and enabling inactive individuals and families to participate in cycling and unlock the benefits of an active lifestyle and facilitating a long-term behaviour change.
The team have also provided the backbone of the local grassroots cyclesport coaching and racing programmes and created Norfolk's biggest locally organised cycling event - the Tour de Broads which now attracts riders from all around the region and across the UK.
Cycling has become a mainstream recreational, leisure and sports activity in the UK and with focussed facilities, innovative engagement projects and a full programme of high quality events now is the time to invest in facilities and create a destination venue for recreational, leisure and competitive cycling in the heart of Norfolk.
The vision for PedalPark is to create a high-quality sports and leisure facility that is unique to our region. It will offer grassroots riding, training, coaching and competition to raise and sustain participation levels across a wide range of ages and ability levels. It is not all about competition, PedalPark is also integrated into the traffic-free Norfolk Trials routes and has a myriad of progressively challenging traffic-light routes radiating out into the splendour of North Norfolk and Broadland and unlocking hidden treasures and familiar tourist attractions.
If you would like to read more about the PedalPark vision...
Download the PedalPark Brochure
Last update: 26/08/16 v6.0
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