Norfolk Pedal Park

A combination of County Council that seems always to sign bad deals and a business man who is not prepared to be flexible in the public interest has scuppered the Pedal Park. This would have been a great local asset and got many people on the road to better health and fitness.

This is what Neil of Pedal Revolution said about it in a recent email:

Our long running battle to create PedalPark at 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. Here is the news I never wanted to have to share with you...

Simon Coward, the managing director of Hethel Innovation (the commercial  business appointed to run the site by Norfolk County Council), having produced his second business strategy for the site in 8 months told me 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 me bluntly that it’s going to be a “business park” and closed to the public.

Having listened and watched him over the last 12 months, in my opinion he has just decided he does not need the hassle of riff-raff like us riding around his perimeter road in the evenings and weekends. He also, in my opinion, seems to not need the £300,000 or so that our contract was worth as his 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 his attitude is very much “if it doesn’t happen, it can’t go wrong” and he does not need the hassle of Pedal Park alongside his 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) he wants 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 are near fully occupied!

They are absolutely no valid reasons why Norfolk County Council cannot have their cake and eat it – taking our revenue for an existing dormant asset alongside the revenue of the new business park. What landlord would’nt want that.  

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, Broadland Council and with 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 is getting a Christmas card from me or many 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!

This is what I wrote to Wendy Thompson, the head honcho at Norfolk County Council:

All over the world ordinary people are showing their disgust at governments of all shapes and sizes. It is proving difficult to find one that acts sensibly in the interest of ordinary people. The keys words there are 'sensibly' and 'ordinary people'. Yes of course we need prosperous businesses but they should not determine policy.

It appears that the County Council has done a foolish deal once again. Don't we all remember the Lynn incinerator? To have handed over total control of a public asset to a single man or company is absurd. My evidence : the inability of a fine local business to use a resource, that is lying fallow, for the public good, because of the intransigence of one man. There is no doubt of the good that the Pedal Park would have done and the urgent need for such a resource. Instead of being taken in by tradesmen you should listen to wider group of people with imagination and far sight when you think up such deals. You won't of course. Despite the overwhelming evidence against the idea, you clearly think that 'Daddy knows best'.

There is a view that the world would be a better place run by business people. Business people are not the most intelligent, caring and informed people. Some are of course but mostly they are just good at business and motivated by money. Just look at the state of the western world caused by listening to such people. You have done just the same. Shame on you!

The only good news

Pedal Revolution also organises the Tour de Broads in August each year. Its website can be found here.


(C) Peter Scott 2016

Last edit 11 December 2016