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British Cycling policy advisor slams “insane waste of public money”

British Cycling policy advisor Chris Boardman has hailed a “victory for common sense” after the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead (RBWM) withdrew its application for an injunction against the owner of Berkshire cycling café, Velolife.

The council’s application for an injunction, based on an alleged breach of an enforcement notice relating to planning permission in allowing it to be used as a meeting place for cyclists, had been due to be heard in court next Tuesday 19 November.

RBWM had originally issued an enforcement notice against café owner Lee Goodwin in October 2017 and in July this year applied for an injunction which ultimately could have led to him being imprisoned if cyclists met at the venue in the hamlet of Warren Row, near Henley on Thames.

British Cycling, together with Cycling UK and law firm Leigh Day, had met with representatives of the council to try and resolve the dispute, and Boardman visited Velolife last month, saying afterwards: “I didn't see a nuisance, just a fantastic local business serving the community in a wholly desirable way.”

Today, he said: “The withdrawal of this injunction is a long-overdue victory for common sense, and more importantly ends over two years of senseless legal action and unnecessary disruption and anguish for Mr Goodwin, his family and his staff.

“Britain’s cycling cafés make a positive contribution to the local economy, they encourage and support people to cycle more regularly and are often a core part of the communities which they serve.

“They should never be subject to the types of punitive and vindictive measures we have seen here, nor should their customers, and I sincerely hope that this case will act as a strong deterrent to others who wish to pursue a similar path in the future.”

Writing on Twitter, Boardman said: “I’m quite comfortable saying this was an insane waste of public money. How it went as far as it did should be grounds for an enquiry.”

The original enforcement notice followed a complaint from a neighbour about the premises, which had formerly been occupied by a pub, and sought to prevent the site being used as a café, a bicycle workshop, retail outlet and a meeting place.

Mr Goodwin appealed, and in October 2018 a planning inspector ruled that while it was lawful for the café to operate as a cycling café with associated workshop, it could not be used as a “cyclists’ meet.”

In July this year, the council sought an injunction against Mr Goodwin and local cycling clubs, claiming that the café was being used for cyclists to meet up before, during or after rides, in breach of the enforcement notice.

Letters threatening action against cycling clubs were subsequently withdrawn, but the enforcement notice against Mr Goodwin, who had urged cyclists not to use the café to meet up, remained in force until now.

Reacting to the news of the withdrawal of the application for an injunction, Colin Walker, British Cycling’s lead cycling delivery manager, said: “Aside from putting the café owner’s livelihood at stake, the people who would’ve been hit by this most aren’t a group of antisocial thugs, they are simply people choosing to ride their bikes.

“At a time when we need to be encouraging people to move more and leave the car at home, discriminating against a group of people like this would have been a travesty and we’re relieved to see the council have finally woken up to this fact.”      

“I am incredibly proud of the way the cycling community came together on this issue, and the work that British Cycling has done alongside Cycling UK and Leigh Day to support Mr Goodwin and the affected local clubs over recent months, and we are pleased that he can now get on with running his business.”

Cycling UK’s head of campaigns, Duncan Dollimore, added: “Velolife should never have been put in this position by the council, but it’s a relief they have belatedly come to their senses, and the café can return to business as usual.

“A legitimate local business shouldn’t have to call on the support of national organisations like British Cycling and Cycling UK to ensure their survival – but I’m glad we were able to help mobilise public support and highlight the absurdity of the council’s position, so Velolife could stay open.”

Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.