How did yesterday’s public consultation about the course’s future go? Well, it took 3 1/2 hours. Lots of people had their say. And it became apparent just how much public anger there has been with the consultation process.
I’d like to be able to link to the minutes of the meeting – but no-one had been asked to take minutes. So you’ll have to rely on the memories of those who attended.
James Crookall has kindly put together a brief summary of how it all went down, which I’ve copied below. I’ll stick my thoughts up tomorrow, but it’s late now and I need beer and bed…
Lastly, the plans aren’t up and on the web yet. Chris Hawkesworth has done his best (above) but there’s nowhere near enough detail to be any use. He’s working on it – and I’ve offered to help – but the current consultation period’s down to two weeks and ticking. The worry is that it won’t be long enough to canvas opinion properly and take these thoughts into consideration. In the meantime, watch this space for better details.
Anyway, from James…
The course designer [Andy Laird] was invited along to give a presentation on the new course plans and answer any questions people had. He did a very nice presentation, showing an ‘artists impression’ of the new course and promissing lots of new play features … etc… The BCU claimed that the plans posted on the internet were over two years old and had been discounted immediately, even though it appeared (from a few things the designer said) that changes had been made recently to build in potential for play features. When questioned further however it became obvious that the designer was in fact basing his presentation upon a vague guess of what the course would be like as no modelling has yet taken place. The artist’s impression was just that, a picture taken from google earth with some pretty waves painted on in photoshop.
The question of the consultation came up as well. In an unprecedented step the BCU actually apologised for the consultation process up to this point. They then said that the next, and final consultation meeting would be held on 3rd September (2 weeks time). The designer estimated it would take at least 3 weeks to computer model the new course and have enough information to let the users ACTUALLY know how the new design will work. Despite this the BCU representative [Chris Hawkesworth] repeatedly disregarded the idea that the consultation period should be extended and a meeting held after the modelling has been done, instead taking the attitude that ‘everyone’s comments have been noted and we’ll try to build them in to the new course as best we can’. After repeated challenges he did eventually back down and agree to ‘suggest’ to others in the BCU that the date of the next meeting be changed.
The BCU representative [Chris] repeatedly suggested that posting information on the internet was unhelpful and that it should only be made available in meetings such as the one last night. When asked how people were supposed to learn of these meetings he was a bit stumped for an answer. Again, after much pressure, he agreed to publish plans and dates for the project on the BCU website and UKrivers.
When asked about the tight timescales the BCU were very quick to blame sport england, saying that the money available had to be spent by the end of the financial year otherwise it would be lost. When pushed it also emerged that they are hosting the european slalom championships early next year and want an upgraded ‘slalom’ course for that.
In terms of the project management, the BCU have scheduled the works to commence in early December. At present (3 and a bit months away) they have at best an ‘artists impression’ of the new design and more importantly NO IDEA OF THE FINAL COSTS. They were also unable to specify how maintenance of the new omniflot system would be funded, and were reluctant to disclose the costs of maintenance (£300 per plastic cylinder)
In my opinion Chris Hawkesworth (BCU) seemed fairly unsatisfied with the results of the meeting. An HPP consultation group was agreed upon with representatives from each discipline, however there were widespread calls for a fair and transparent consultation process. The main demand surfacing from all this was that modelling be completed BEFORE the next consultation meeting, so that users are able to review more detailed information and suggest changes accordingly. Unbelievably for an NGB organised meeting, no minutes were taken, so the only record of the concerns raised and topics discussed were those notes taken by members of the audience. I think the BCU immagined that this meeting would shut up the opposition enabling them to plough ahead with their original ideas, perhaps making one or two minor concessionary changes along the way to silence the masses. With the overwhealming support Pete [Cornes] has received from recreational paddlers it now looks like there is a very real chance that these changes will be blocked completely if the BCU don’t work hard to fully convince their members that this new course will be an improvement for all users.