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Anti-cycle trail protesters accused of intimidating contractors – but campaigners claim they are being “silenced” by council

Police were called to Newbold Comyn last week after a group of locals allegedly confronted contractors working on the former golf course’s new family-friendly mountain bike trails

A council has condemned the “unwarranted and wholly unacceptable” actions of a “vocal minority”, after a group of campaigners opposed to the creation of mountain bike facilities on the grounds of a former golf course allegedly confronted and intimidated contractors working on the trails.

Last Tuesday, police were called to Newbold Comyn country park, on the outskirts of Leamington Spa, Warwickshire, following an alleged altercation between locals and contractors, which Warwick District Council has described as an “unlawful” attempt by activists to accuse those working on the cycle trails of wrongdoing and to “impose their will against the wishes of the wider community”.

However, the protesters have claimed that the council’s version of events is “damaging and misleading”, and that the local authority is seeking to “silence and intimidate” them.

The construction of beginner-friendly cycle trails at the 300-acre Newbold Comyn – which the council hopes will provide an opportunity for families and children to learn to ride their bikes in a safe environment – forms part of the authority’s ‘masterplan’ for the site, the home of a former golf course which closed in 2017.

The trails – the construction of which was partly financed by grants from Sport England and British Cycling through the Places to Ride fund, and which will be completed next month – were originally intended to extend across the entirety of the former golf course’s grounds.

However, following a series of public consultations, the plans were changed to situate the trails in one half of the park, leaving the other half free for the site’s other users.

Nevertheless, since the ‘masterplan’ was first proposed in 2020, the family-friendly cycling facilities have come under fire from locals who claim that the “plans favour cyclists over all the other users of the old golf course”.

The Friends of Newbold Comyn, a local campaign group opposed to the plans, said in 2021 that the park was “a shared space and we feel no need for that to change”, and that other residents were “dismayed” at the proposed cycle trails.

Tensions seem to have come to a head last week, when a group of protesters allegedly intimidated contractors working on the completion of the trails.

Warwickshire Police says that officers were called to the site last Tuesday morning, but that no offences were recorded.

However, Andrew Day, the leader of Warwick District Council, accused the protesters of “unlawful actions” and “seeking to intimidate” workers.

“It is regrettable that the actions of a vocal minority, who are seeking to intimidate our contractors working to create the Newbold Comyn cycle trails, has caused personal concern and undue stress,” Day said in a statement.

“It saddens me that some feel it is appropriate to take matters into their own hands, and to resort to unlawful actions in an attempt to impose their will against the wishes of the wider community. This behaviour is unwarranted and wholly unacceptable. Our contractors and staff should be free to carry out their duties unfettered, without fear or intimidation.”

In response, Katie Pittel, from The Friends of Newbold Comyn group, told the BBC that the “inflammatory language” used by the councillor was “a deliberate ploy to silence and intimidate people who have spoken out”.

Pittel also said that the residents’ group was calling for an immediate half to work on the site, which she said was “more intrusive and damaging to the landscape than we could ever have imagined”.

However, in his statement, Day noted that the construction of the trails was agreed upon following “extensive public consultation” and a “comprehensive” planning approval process, which was conducted in the public domain. He also pointed out that the council is continuing to work closely with the local planning authority as the trails are constructed, “in accordance with ongoing expert archaeological and ecological advice”.

“To accuse our contractors of wrongdoing and to seek to personally intimidate them when going out about their business, is of serious concern,” he continued.

“I would like to thank officers from Warwickshire Police for their swift response in dealing with this matter and for confirming that immediate action will be taken should this unacceptable behaviour reoccur.

“I can assure residents that the attempt by a vocal minority to intimidate our contractors and council officers will not divert efforts to implement the agreed Newbold Comyn Masterplan in full, for the benefit of all.”

> Bath Bike Park plans dismissed as “puff and nonsense”

Newbold Comyn isn’t the only planned cycling facility set to be built on the grounds of a former golf course to attract the ire of furious residents in recent months.

Bath Bike Park, a proposed 30-acre facility situated on the grounds of the city’s former Entry Hill golf course, was set to feature five kilometres of purpose-built mountain bike trails, a pump track, skills and learn to ride areas, a bike shop and coaching services, as well as free-to-access walking, running, and family cycling paths.

The plans received widespread support from residents, though local golfers had previously led a campaign to save the two loss-making golf courses at Entry Hill after Bath and North East Somerset Council revealed that each round played cost taxpayers £8.

One golfer complained that the first public consultation on the future of the site was taken over by a ‘cycling lobby on steroids’ after 78 percent of respondents expressed support for turning it into a cycling centre.

However, despite this support, the park’s construction faced a number of challenges in recent years, sparking almost constant delays, until Bath and North East Somerset Council finally confirmed in December that the plans had been abandoned altogether due to rising costs after a funding bid failed, and that the site would remain as it is “for the short term”.

Ryan joined road.cc in December 2021 and since then has kept the site’s readers and listeners informed and enthralled (well at least occasionally) on news, the live blog, and the road.cc Podcast. After boarding a wrong bus at the world championships and ruining a good pair of jeans at the cyclocross, he now serves as road.cc’s senior news writer. Before his foray into cycling journalism, he wallowed in the equally pitiless world of academia, where he wrote a book about Victorian politics and droned on about cycling and bikes to classes of bored students (while taking every chance he could get to talk about cycling in print or on the radio). He can be found riding his bike very slowly around the narrow, scenic country lanes of Co. Down.

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39 comments

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Fignon's ghost replied to NickSprink | 1 year ago
7 likes

Pretentious types and complete arseholes aside.

It's a pity ALL GOLF COURSES aren't retasked to serve a wider spectrum of the community.

I'd rather let locals use the space for cycling and local trading zones that bans all ball games.

Avatar
pasley69 replied to Fignon's ghost | 1 year ago
0 likes
Fignon's ghost wrote:

It's a pity ALL GOLF COURSES aren't retasked to serve a wider spectrum of the community.

It seems there are three groups here:- dog-walkers, golfers, MTBers. It makes sense to form an alliance between the MTBers and the golfers. Combine the MTB trails in and around the golf course. The MTBers wear helmets and body armour, so should be safe from the golf balls, the golfers get additional hazards to the usual sand and water traps. Combined, the two groups would well outnumber the dog-walkers.

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Daclu Trelub replied to pasley69 | 1 year ago
0 likes
Pasley69 wrote:
Fignon's ghost wrote:

It's a pity ALL GOLF COURSES aren't retasked to serve a wider spectrum of the community.

It seems there are three groups here:- dog-walkers, golfers, MTBers. It makes sense to form an alliance between the MTBers and the golfers. Combine the MTB trails in and around the golf course. The MTBers wear helmets and body armour, so should be safe from the golf balls, the golfers get additional hazards to the usual sand and water traps. Combined, the two groups would well outnumber the dog-walkers.

Golfers get extra points for a ricochet off an MTBr onto the green.

Avatar
Boopop | 1 year ago
7 likes

"The MTB trails are more intrusive and damaging to the landscape than we could ever have imagined."

In what way I wonder does Margaret think the landscape is being "damaged"? If she thinks acres of grass is some sort of wildlife eden full of a myriad of different species, I fear she'd be sorely disappointed if she discovered the truth. No, I thinks he just doesn't like the look of MTB trails. I wonder if she has a side hustle complaining about teenagers hanging around on street corners 😊

Avatar
peted76 | 1 year ago
8 likes

One day.. I'll look back on the Newbold Comyn trails and laugh... but for the past two/three years, frankly it's been overall pretty stressful. 
If anyone's interested there has also been a Tv spot on bbc midlands news on Monday and a radio interview with Phil Upton on local radio which was pretty spicy! . 

 

Avatar
sean1 | 1 year ago
2 likes

Swindon is also converting an old council golf course into a cycle circuit.  Mainly a road circuit plus BMX/pump track.

The development also revamps the existing football/croquet(!) pitches and a new pavillion.  Part of the old golf course will remain as public open space.

The conversion of the golf course has generally been well supported.

https://www.swindonadvertiser.co.uk/news/23305989.construction-date-sugg...

 

Avatar
Hirsute replied to sean1 | 1 year ago
1 like

Croquet is played on lawns or courts not pitches.
There are 200 clubs and 8000 players.

Avatar
sean1 replied to Hirsute | 1 year ago
1 like

Swindon has a strong Croquet club.  I am not disparaging the sport, just surprised to see Swindon having such a facility.  All good in my book.

Avatar
Hirsute replied to sean1 | 1 year ago
0 likes

Just being pedantic.

3 lawns it says, which is about average.

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