At last – the plans…

HPP proposal plans (470kb PDF)

HPP proposal plans (click to download 470kb PDF)

At last – the plans. So what’s changed from the earlier proposals?

Well, the main thing is that we’ve had useful input from the user group, which includes representatives of all the different user groups with in interest in the course. A day-and-night contrast with the start of this process, we’ve all had a say in the designs. You can find out more about the consultation process and the changes here (420kb PDF). And we think it shows in what’s actually proposed:

  • The course will go back to full flow. It’s flowing at 17 cubic metres a second (cumecs) at the moment. These changes will put it back to the 24 cumecs it used to flow at. That means the rapids will get their power back.
  • The muncher and plughole section will stay as they are. That means 24 cumecs going through the section, which should deepen up the muncher and plughole themselves, and bring back the power and definition they used to have.
  • The pools will stay deep. The Pyramid and Looping pools will stay deep, to retain their playboating potential – though the changes will make the deep sections shorter. Modelling shows this won’t change the energy in the features, but it will speed up the water on exit which will suit racers. The deep pool downstream of the muncher will be filled in, though.
  • Specific features for beginners, intermediates and whitewater safety and rescue. The back-channels and the section below the muncher will make training grounds for improving paddlers and rescue technicians.
  • Variable features. We’ve looked closely at the Omniflot system. In theory, it should give us the potential to fine-tune features outside the muncher/plughole section to make the most of them.

If you want to see the modelling behind the proposals, you can download this 540kb PDF for full details.

So what do I think?

Well… I think it should be an improvement on what we’ve got now for almost all course users. The main benefit is a full 24 cumec flow again. It should give the features more depth, which can only be a good thing. Given the process the user group have been through, and the information we’ve been given, I think it’ll give the course a new lease of life over its current – lousy – configuration.

So I’m actually quite excited about the potential. But what do you think? You can come along to the public meeting this Wednesday to have your say…

Pete Cornes.


Wednesday 22nd October – public meeting

Wednesday 22nd October sees the second – and potentially final – public meeting about the future of Nottingham’s whitewater course at Holme Pierrepont.

Those who could make it to the first meeting will know what to expect: a frank and open debate with no punches pulled.

This time you’ll get to see how the feedback from that first debate has been taken into account, and what the final plans look like. It’s your chance to quiz the user group, course designer and BCU on the thinking behind the proposal. And – most importantly of all – the meeting will decide what happens to the course at the start of November, when it’s scheduled to close for construction.

HPP whitewater course users’ meeting. HPP rugby club, Nottingham. 7pm, Wed 22nd Oct 2008. Directions here.

The current course – a hydrodynamic glimpse

To tell if changes to the whitewater course at Holme Pierrepont will be an improvement, you need something to compare them with. In the past this meant a physical model, built to a certain scale so planners and paddlers could look at it and get a clear idea of what the water was doing, and where.

Though this approach is still popular, but an alternative is to use a hydrodynamic computer model as the basis for your changes.

Download the hydrodynamic modelling report here – 200kb PDF

That’s what this is. In layman’s terms, it shows the water depth in the concrete channel as it is at the moment. It’s effectively a computer model of what you’ll see if you walk down the course top to bottom, looking at how deep it is at certain cross sections all the way down.

EPD, the design consultants, have been using this model to take the user group‘s feedback and make some changes to the original proposals. It’s the foundation that the new proposals are built on – which you’ll be able to see at the public meeting on Wednesday 22nd October.

So download the modelling report, have a look and if you’ve got any thoughts, you can either post a comment below or discuss it online at the UK rivers guidebook community.

Who are the whitewater course user group?

So, the plans for the whitewater course developments are in the hands of the user group. Chosen by people at the public meeting in August, they put us forward to have direct input into the design to make the developments work for all course users. The idea was that we’d discuss it, have direct input into the design and think it through in detail from all viewpoints, before deciding whether to go ahead with the project at the end of October.

So, who’s on there, and what’s everyone’s role?

Chris Hawkesworth – BCU facilities manager

Andy Laird – design consultant

Pete Orton – Valley Kayaks

Daniel Scott – Desperate Measures

Dawn and Ian Scott – Holme Pierrepont Canoe Club

Richard Chrimes – freestylist extraordinaire

Keith Hampton – safety and rescue

John Handyside – wild water racing

David Leathborough – whitewater rafting

Andy Maddock – world class slalom

Ian Bebbington – Nottinghamshire county council

Matt Chadder – recreational playboating

Pete Cornes – me – squirt boating
Over the last few weeks we’ve had quite a few more meetings down at the course, looking at ideas and possibilities.

The foundation of this is a hydrodynamic computer model of the course, calibrated against the course as it is at the moment. Andy Laird has been using this to take our feedback and include it in the design – and the next step is to take these designs back to the public and see if they’re hitting the spot.

What next?

The most important thing is a date for your diary. October 22nd at 7PM, at the Rugby Club behind the Peak UK shop. That’s the public user group meeting to look at the final plans and see if they fit the bill. We want input from as many people as possible, and I’d love to see you there…

Changes to Nottingham’s Holme Pierrepont whitewater course – what’s the story?

I’ve been getting loads of calls and emails asking for a quick and dirty rundown of the story so far – so here goes…

In August, news leaked out that the whitewater course in Nottingham was going to shut down over the winter to turn it into a fast, shallow and even-gradient course for slalom canoe trainking. In fact, I might have had something to do with posting that information. The problem was that no-one had told the other people who use the course – like recreational paddlers, whitewater rafters, water safety and rescue training professionals, playboaters or wild water racers – let alone asked for their input.

So a handful of us got together to try and put over our opinion a little more forcefully. Emails, phone calls, message boards, facebook, blogs and the rest. Even a draft report (100kb PDF) to explain the needs and requirements of all the different users. We got support from nearly 600 paddlers – more than enough to call an Extraordinary Genreral Meeting of the BCU. It didn’t come to that, though, because by the end of August the BCU called a public meeting to quell speculation and present the plans.

How did the meeting go? Well, if you were there you won’t forget it. Tensions ran high among the 80 or so people who came along, and the discussion ranged from good-humoured to, well, strained… But by the end of the evening, there was a clear way forward.

It all came down to a user group – a handful of paddlers and course users who were happy to give their time and knowledge to the project to try and make sure that the project would turn out for the better. Working with Chris Hawkesworth, the BCU facilities manager, and Andy Laird, their design consultant who’s developed a complex computer model of the course, we’ve been meeting most weeks recently to try and make this project work.

Now it’s all coming to a head. We need to decide if these plans are working by the end of the month, and there’s a public meeting on Wednesday October 22nd in Nottingham to do that.

It’s at 7pm at the Rugby Club, behind the Peak UK shop at Holme Pierrepont (directions). If the course’s future matters to you, please do your best to come along and join us. I’ll post the plans up beforehand so we’ve got a good chance to get to grips with them first. And keep an eye on this blog for information in the meantime.

BCU statement

This has just landed in my inbox from Chris Hawkesworth – a statement on the process for consultation on the mooted course changes:

Holme Pierrepont – Proposed upgrade to White Water Course.


It is proposed that over this coming winter upgrade works will be carried out to the Holme Pierrepont (HPP) White Water Course (WWC). These works will be to and in the water channel and will alter some of the current water features. It is planned for the work to be completed by the end of February 2009. This upgrade work is being managed by a “Design Group” consisting of the BCU (Facilities and Performance), Sport England (SE) the proposed funders, Nottinghamshire County Council (NCC), and HPP Centre Management. Two engineering consulting firms have been appointed, EPD Ltd to look into and prepare an “In channel” design and Patrick Parsons to look into the civil engineering aspects and to prepare drawings for tender.

Prior to the current “Design group” being formed a French Company, Hydrostadium were asked by the BCU to produce initial suggestions. These suggestions for various reasons were not taken further by the BCU. In May 2008 a consultation meeting confirmed that these initial ideas were not to be pursued but a drawing remained in circulation.

This drawing of the rejected proposal was recently placed on various web sites which has created a great deal of concern, fear and comment about the upgrade proposals.

August 18th meeting.
In response to concerns raised by HPP WWC users, a public meeting was held into the proposed upgrade on the 18th of August.

Over 90 paddlers, including a member of the Press, an NCC observer, BCU and HPP Centre staff attended, of whom 80% were BCU members. A presentation of the work to the proposals to date was made by Andy Laird of EPD Ltd. The merits of the proposals both for and against and a number of serious concerns, misgivings and fears were raised and were expressed in a structured, free for all, good humoured atmosphere which lasted almost 4 hours.

The outcome of the meeting was the formation by volunteers of an HPP WWC “User group” who would meet again on the 3rd of September.

September 3rd meeting.
Originally intended to be a second and final public meeting this date was commuted to a “User group” meeting which quite by chance coincided with a £10 million HPP general upgrade announcement made that day by Nottinghamshire County Council.

The meeting started by looking at Notes taken on the 18th by Ian Scott of HPP Canoe Club. We listed by main heading each of the issues that had been raised, and included and any that had been raised since.

We then looked at what Canoe England understood to be the “Brief” given by Sport England to Andy Laird of EPD Ltd.

Andy then presented his initial drawings and detailed how he was using the “Hec-ras” computer modelling programme to model the course as it is now and how he would use it to model any of the proposed changes.

The plans that are elsewhere on this web site were projected onto a white board. Each current and proposed feature was one at a time gone into in great detail. By using felt pens to sketch their own ideas, superimpositions were made on the white board by “User group” members and in turn an undertaking was given that all the points raised would be looked into by Andy and modelled to see their effect.

Andy agreed to return to the next “User group” meeting with updated proposal drawings for each of the alternatives suggested and will also show an updated “Hec-ras” computer model for each.

There was a unanimous outcome to the meeting and the “User group” wishes to recommend to the “Design Group” a way forwards as follows:-

Consultation time scale.
September 23rd User group meeting.
October 8th        User group meeting.
October 15th      Public meeting HPP Main Centre Buildings at 7.00pm
October 30th      Latest go/no go for the contract.

Specific detailed requests.

A detailed investigation needed into the new version.
HPP WWC original designers.
George Parr and Frank Goodman are to be contacted for their comments.

A statement by the “User group” as follows:-
In order to meet the consultation aspirations of HPP WWC users, as expressed on Monday night the 18th of August and at the “User group” meeting on September 3rd and to meet the proposed “Design Group” delivery programme. The “User group” have decided to support the “Design Group” proposals to go out to tender to pre-qualified contractors with the current “Sample scheme” drawings. This will provide them and us with detailed feedback on construction cost, time scales and allow for the provisional appointment of a preferred contractor. We wish to work with that contractor in developing a final detailed design that will be acceptable by all.

By taking this “Twin-track” route, time will be allowed for structured consultation and involvement by users in the design process without delaying the procurement process time table.

Design brief to EPD Ltd.
Canoe England understands this to be that :-

“EPD Ltd has been appointed to recommend a design for an upgrade to the WWC at HPP in order to enhance the course to modern standards for Slalom Training and Competition in the run up to the 2012 Olympic Games and beyond, whilst at the same time maximising the benefits of the course for other user groups”.

Members of the user group:-
Andy      Maddock        BCU Slalom*
Chris.     Hawkesworth         CE Planning and Facilities Manager*
Daniel    Scott            Desperate Measures
David     Leathborough        Rafting
Dawn     Scott            HPP Canoe Club
Ian         Bebbington        Nottinghamshire County Council*
John      Handyside        CE WWR*
Keith      Hampton        Safety and Rescue
Mark      Delaney            BCU Slalom
Matt       Chadder        Freestyle
Peter     Cornes            Freestyle
Peter     Orton            Valley Canoe Products
Richard Chrimes            Freestyle
Simon   Ricketts            HPP Centre Manager*

Andy     Laird            EPDUK Ltd* (in consultant capacity)

Note:- “User group” members marked with a “*” are also “Design Group” members.

As further details of the proposals become available they will be posted immediately on this web site.

Any enquiries to :-

An open letter from the user’s group

Thank you to everyone who’s been in touch with messages of support – even if I haven’t had chance to reply to everyone individually just yet…

With a bit of time and a bit of perspective on Monday night’s meeting, we’ve had a bit of time to take the longer view. Which is, basically, this: we’ve got a fantastic resource already, and we need cast-iron assurance that what it’s turned into will be better.

Read on for an open letter to Chris Hawkesworth from the BCU to explain our perspective and to try and find a way forward…

Dear Chris,

Thanks for setting up Monday night’s meeting to see the new EPD plans for changes to the white water course at Nottingham. It was great to get World Class, the BCU, Nottingham County Council, EPD and some of the course’s users in the same room at the same time.

Passions are clearly running high on this project, so I wanted to send through a brief summary of the user group’s thoughts after a bit of time to reflect. I hope this will help move the project on, as I can give you a summary of the user group’s 5600+ signatories’ opinions right now.

It’s clear that people are still seriously concerned at the new proposals to change Holme Pierrepont white water course. In detail, they feel that many of the concerns that we showed in the user group report on 10th August have been overlooked. Specifically they’re concerned that beginner paddlers will suffer by the changes to the back channels, rafting will continue to suffer with a loss of water depth and volume, and freestyle/recreational paddling will suffer with a reduction of ‘play features’. As you know, we have serious concerns that this will all add up to fewer visitors at a time when we need to maximise revenue for the County Council to keep this world class facility open for another 30 years!

Right now, the proposed changes are only plans and artist’s impressions. People aren’t comfortable to press the button on a £600k spend with little more than Photoshopped Google Earth impressions. Also, people are still gravely concerned that the new plastic block system presents little hope for stable features on the river – a known fact from all the sites around the world which already use this system. The original course design used sophisticated hydraulic resonance to form stable, well-defined features at a variety of levels and in ideal locations. We’re concerned that setting up the infinite permutations of plastic blocks in this proposal by trial and error – and without the underlying maths – just couldn’t have the same effect.

We’re also confused how the volume of flow can be increased with no changes to the original section of Omniflots at the start of the rapids, because we know this has already reduced the water volume to a critical shallowness where rafting customers are at considerably more risk of injury than before the changes.

At Monday evening’s meeting you said that the development wouldn’t proceed without the approval of the HPP user’s group, and that our opinions are critical to the process. Also, the one thing everyone agreed on was that we need EPD to prove in simple and specific terms exactly what this new course will deliver. We don’t want to know that the blocks are ‘flexible’ (we’ve calculated there are around 52 million combinations) – we want you to illustrate and explain exactly what each feature and section of white water will be like. Of course, compromise needs to be a key factor in designing this new course, but we just can’t visualise how these proposals represent the broader needs of canoesport, rather than a very specific subset.

If you can’t guarantee that the new design will be a significant improvement across all user groups, we’d rather it be returned to the original design. I can’t see the sense in making such a radical change to the facility just as ownership is changing hands (with the need to generate revenue) and with a purpose-built slalom facility near London due to open in the next couple of years.

Because of this, we place in writing to you that at this point in time the HP user group and supporting 600 paddlers do not approve the new EPD plans as they stand.

Given Paul Owen’s comments to Matt Chadder a couple of weeks ago we hope this helps bring the conversation onto the next stage. There are still too many doubts and concerns over these plans. We need convincing that this new scheme will be an improvement to what we already have, and that it will benefit the broader needs of canoesport. When this is the case, we’ll support improvements to the course wholeheartedly.

It’s clear that the process for these modifications has been badly mismanaged by the BCU and, to be honest, we’re disappointed with the governing body that’s meant to respect and represent all its members. That said, we’re pleased that you’ve become involved personally, and we look forward to working with you.

We’re keenly anticipating seeing the minutes from the meeting and hearing your suggestions for moving the process forward. After this clarification of the user group’s position, I understand you’ll need time to consult with Paul Owen to establish what we need to do next. I hope that you can also set up an agenda for the meeting on the 3rd September.

From a communication point of view, I’m setting up a mailing group to share information with the user group more effectively than through online message boards and the blog. Again, let me offer you full use of all these communication methods to help us move forward with the full, proper consultation with all the course’s users.


Pete Cornes.
For and on behalf of the users of Holme Pierrepont whitewater course