The Government, The New Road, and FlyUp 417 Bike Park: What’s Happening?

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Many of you have seen FlyUp 417 bike park’s recent video about the potential for them to have to close as a result of works being done by National Highways. It’s a complicated issue, and hard to explain in a YouTube video (or even a web story), but we’ve spoken to the folks from FlyUp and we’re going to have a go at explaining the issues – and what you can help do about it.

FlyUp 417 is in Gloucestershire, right next to some major road upgrades planned for the A417. The new road impacts the bike park both temporarily during the construction phase, and then permanently. Some of the land owned by the family who runs FlyUp (who also live on the site) will be bought to accommodate the new road and the associated works, while other pieces of land will only be needed during construction, and can then be given back.

When a major infrastructure development like this happens, the government obtains a sort of uber planning application, called a Development Consent Order (DCO), which takes the form of a piece of legislation. This sets out all the works that will happen, and all the mitigation measures to be put in place for each affected resident, landowner, business, statutory consultee, and so on. It’s a big process, and in the case of the A417 Missing Link Scheme – as the development is called – it’s been rumbling on for around five years of consultation. Once all the discussions have taken place, a Planning Inspector meets with all the parties affected by the development, and they make a report saying whether they’re satisfied that all the mitigation plans are appropriate and the DCO should be granted. The list of the mitigation plans is included in the ‘Requirements Register’.

Section 11 of the Requirements Register shows the FlyUp temporary building requirements

In the case of FlyUp417, their existing car park is needed for the construction project. So, a key factor in the mitigation that was included in the DCO Requirements Register was creation of a new temporary parking area and temporary visitor facilities. The previous project director and team had accepted that the visitor facilities and car park needed to be kept together – it wasn’t viable for the business to have new temporary parking 500m away from the existing facilities, and so the project agreed to provide both the new parking and visitor centre. A good working relationship seemed to be in place, and the project staff seemed to understand the bike park’s needs.

Insurance is always tricky with bike parks

Indeed, operating a bike park isn’t so very different from operating a construction site: both are potentially dangerous environments, where risk must be managed. Just as a construction site will have a banksperson supervising moving machinery, a bike park has clear rules about how riders can (or can’t) mix with traffic, or when it’s safe to work on a track. In both environments, the risks are identified and methods of working to ensure safety implemented. It’s on the basis of these rules and processes that specialist insurers grant their cover.

The original plan was for work on the new car park and visitor facilities to begin in October 2023, in order that the old car park would be vacant and ready for the construction traffic to move in during September 2024. However, just as that work was due to start, FlyUp 417 was told that the construction programme was being shortened by 6 months, and the temporary carpark and facilities would not be being built. FlyUp417 tells us that this was accompanied by a number of changes in the staff running the project, meaning that many of the relationships and understanding built up over the previous years was lost.

According to FlyUp 417, Instead of delivering the plans as contained in the DCO, National Highways proposed a reduction in the size of the existing car park, and revised access arrangements to facilitate the construction on the new timetable. FlyUp 417 tells us these proposals render their operations uninsurable, and that their insurer has confirmed this. As well as the significant reduction in car parking capacity (from 130 spaces to 44), of particular concern is the sharing of access between vehicles, riders and pedestrians, at a pinch point with poor sight lines.

Yum, trails

The risk of losing insurance is real: the bike park tells us it has already had to involve legal advisors after works carried out under temporary access licences (things like preparatory tree felling can be done by the highways contractors on days when the bike park is closed) left hazards in place, and that construction staff have been spotted walking on bike tracks when the park is supposed to be operational and out of bounds to contractors. These issues threatened to void their insurance.

You’d think there might be some sort of enforcement program here – like if your neighbour chops down a tree that’s protected. However, it being a major infrastructure project means that the key route to appeal decisions or challenge processes lies with the High Court – something of a costly endeavour. In the case of the A303/Stonehenge proposals, the DCO there has been challenged (and no work started) thanks largely to crowd funded legal challenges – so it is possible, but it’s quite a feat.

The more achievable means of getting a dialogue lies with the Secretary of State, who is responsible for approving the DCO and many subsequent changes to it. Or, in engaging the National Highways project managers in coming to a more suitable solution. The folks at FlyUp 417 are keen to have these conversations, but they don’t feel like they are being heard and understood in the same way as was the case with the previous project team. To them, it all feels a bit overwhelming. And let’s not forget, it’s not just their business, it’s their home too. It’s all of that that pushed them to go public and make the video. And potentially, it’s worked…

Look out for the bulldozer on the lander?

We asked National Highways for comment on how they’ll be taking this issue forward, and they issued us with this statement:

Steve Foxley, Project Director for the A417 Missing Link scheme, said: “We appreciate that any work, particularly on such a major project, may cause disruption for nearby businesses and aim to do all we can to minimise that disturbance as much as possible. Reimbursement has already been paid, and any land temporarily acquired would be returned following completion of the scheme.

“We’re working closely with FlyUp to address concerns and have agreed to delay the start of works on their land to allow for further discussions. We have suggested a list of changes that we believe will protect their facilities and allow them to keep trading, including site safety and reducing the land required for us to undertake our works. We are continuing to engage and we have further meetings planned to discuss these matters. 

“We are working within our approved planning constraints, and we will continue to engage with FlyUp to minimise any impacts from this important and much needed project.”

Further information:

The A417 Missing Link scheme will deliver desperately needed improvements to tackle the long-standing congestion and safety issues, while also helping to unlock the regional economy. We are grateful for people’s patience while we carry out this work and aim to complete the scheme as quickly as possible.

The land required from FlyUp would be a mixture of permanent and temporary acquisition by National Highways as part of the construction of the scheme, allowing for the safe widening of the road. The land temporarily acquired would be returned following completion of the scheme.

Having been through the lengthy consultation process, the bike park folks know there is a design solution that would allow them to stay open – so they don’t really understand why it’s not being implemented. If that solution really isn’t viable and they are forced to close for the construction period, they want National Highways to offer up the necessary compensation to cover their staff’s wages, mortgages and so on – rather than being forced to fight for it in court. Right now, they’re reporting that no offer is on the table, and that there have been no discussions on solutions. Until yesterday there were no meetings in the calendar, and they were told construction vehicles would be moving in on the 25th March. Following the public appeal and the video, the construction has been delayed and a meeting is planned for tomorrow. They’re hoping that this might lead to some real dialogue and solutions that will allow them to tell their staff if they’ve got jobs to come to in the weeks ahead, or for how long riders can turn up and hit the trails.

FlyUp 417 is hoping that enough media and public attention might just help tip things in their favour. If you’ve enjoyed a ride at the bike park, you can email the FlyUp 417 team with your comments of support to show just how many people want to see them secure the future of the park.

While you’re here…

Filling in the surveys here could help small business like Flyup 417 have more support when it comes to these sorts of challenges. Let the UK Trails Project know about the sorts of riding you enjoy, and what you think the UK trail provision needs help.

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Author Profile Picture
Hannah Dobson

Managing Editor

I came to Singletrack having decided there must be more to life than meetings. I like all bikes, but especially unusual ones. More than bikes, I like what bikes do. I think that they link people and places; that cycling creates a connection between us and our environment; bikes create communities; deliver freedom; bring joy; and improve fitness. They're environmentally friendly and create friendly environments. I try to write about all these things in the hope that others might discover the joy of bikes too.

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Viewing 4 posts - 1 through 4 (of 4 total)
  • The Government, The New Road, and FlyUp 417 Bike Park: What’s Happening?
  • robingrant
    Full Member

    Great article Hannah – awesome that as a result National Highways have now said they’ll meet with Flyup 417 tomorrow after weeks of radio silence. I chatted to Dave @ Flyup 417 this afternoon and it’s truly horrific how they’re being treated by National Highways.

    Would be great to get an update tomorrow once we know the outcome of the meeting?

    ShanAndy
    Full Member

    Well done on putting together an article that understands the planning system and cuts through the raised emotions on this story.

    I feel genuinely more informed about the situation now.

     

    Thank you.

    paulmarshall
    Full Member

    This very much echoes National Highways treatment of NMUs ( non motorized users) over the mess that is M25/A3 J10 works. After not consulting with Surrey Countryside Access forum at the planning stage. (which was a statutory duty ) they then had a couple of meetings, but I got the impression they did not like any views that disagreed with them and stopped any further meetings. There are many R.O.W. that have been stopped up with little notice, but we realised they had all the balls in the game and can always ignore the views of BHS, ramblers, carriage drivers and cycling groups.

    ShanAndy
    Full Member

    Yeah, it’s not been a whole lot better with the consultation for the M3 A34 junction. We got in at an earlier stage, and have the added weight of a National Park, but there’s still a feeling that they’re doing what they feel like.

     

    Sadly the story of changing personnel is a familiar one as well. We get one set of staff clued in and they move on, so we’re back to square one again.

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