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