CAMPAIGNERS are calling for work to stop immediately on controversial cycle trails at Leamington’s Newbold Comyn.
A Friends of Newbold Comyn group is looking to challenge Warwick District Council over the trails which began as a ‘few family-friendly cycle trails’ but which have become ‘mountain bike trails over two-thirds of the former golf course, a large learn-to-ride area and a cycling hub’.
The group, which already has several hundred members, is currently examining planning documents as it believes ‘deviations’ to the plans contravene what was originally permitted.
It has also launched a petition and is encouraging anyone concerned to sign in a bid to stop further development at the popular country park.
FNC spokeswoman Kate Pittel voiced her concerns in the latest Leamington Society newsletter.
“The trails already dominate the landscape and their scope is spreading as the work is being carried out ignoring the ‘strict adherence’ to the designs at committee stage.
“We have a great many concerns about the process WDC has followed. Our voices weren’t heard and local survey results ignored.
“We want development to be halted immediately and an independent body to manage Newbold Comyn from now on.
“Warwick District Council is not to be trusted with the management of our valuable green space.”
Ms Pittel pointed to WDC’s own surveys which found the majority of people who visited New Comyn valued the open space, nature and peacefulness it offered, with far more people going there to walk rather than cycle.
FNC accuse WDC of changing policy in order to obtain a £425,000 grant from British Cycling which was dependent on certain criteria.
And they fear the more extensive cycle network, with steep trails designed for speed, will lead to Newbold Comyn become a destination venue for riders from far and ride – whereas the originally ‘family-friendly’ plans were geared towards local cyclists.
Ms Pittel continued: “Regardless of the community’s views, and of its own local and regional policies, WDC decided to change the landscape and the use of the land.
“When we complained about the lack of consultation, they told us we could have our say at planning. Three weeks before the planning committee met, the officers’ report stated that the trails didn’t require planning permission because they didn’t constitute a change of use.
“When work started, the reality of what was happening to our Comyn hit. The trails have cut great
swathes in the landscape. Trees have been felled and damaged to make tracks through the woods.
“The development now covers half of the old golf course, it doesn’t ‘respect the character of the
countryside’, it isn’t ‘safe and accessible’ for walkers, it doesn’t ‘provide strong protection for valuable open space’, nor does it ‘positively contribute to the character and quality of its environment.’
“In creating a sports cycling playground, the council has changed the use of the Comyn, ignored the community’s wishes and abandoned every one of its own policies designed to protect our green spaces.”
Warwick District Council has not yet responded to our request for comment.
Click here for further details about the petition.