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


3 responses to “An open letter from the user’s group

  1. Thanks for adding these comments, Pete. I think they reinforce what the majority of users are thinking.

    It’s a great facility which has kept me coming back for over 10 years. I was there again tonight with beginners, rafters, slalom paddlers, top class freestylers and recreational paddlers all enjoying themselves. Let’s ensure that this continues for many years in the future.


  2. I have some video of myself and three friends larking about on the course not long after it opened with an approx 2 year old Alan watching from the bank.

    16 years or so later he became Junior World Freestyle champion and HP was the site of his first and many subsequent competitions, team selections etc.

    To lose the variety of features that the course can currently offer future juniors would be criminal.


  3. Thanks Pete for bringing in the interests af all users and potential users. I did think this was the duty and obligation of the BCU. It seems that there is a risk that the interests of the few are in danger of overiding the interests of the many.

    To spend this type of money and destroy many of the features of the course in the process would be incredibly selfish and immoral.

    It is blindingly clear that to ensure the commercial viability of the site it has to appeal to all users. Therefore a wide variety of features are vital. Some of the points raised in our club which encompases slalom, freestyle, riverrunning, kayak, canoe & canoe-polo interests include:

    Freestyle has far fewer good venues at the moment than slalom. It is however growing fast and of interest to a lot of younger paddlers we should therefore support these paddlers just as we support slalom paddlers.

    To remove the deep features at HPP could cut across the interests of a large number of paddlers and users.

    See if there is any way that at least one or two of the HPP deep features can be retained so they can be switched in some way between the needs of the different sports. As a mini-example the Nene pourover is modified for slaloms.

    Make sure the modifications to the course aren’t permanent. Whatever happens, get BCU to commit to reinstating HPP after 2012

    If by Jan 2011 we haven’t got northern based slalom racers in the world top 10 in any discipline K1M K1W C1 C2, then immediately re-instate HPP. Broxbourne should anyway be running by then. Don’t flog a dead horse.

    As a trade-off consolation get the BCU support or the development of a Freestyle-specific venue, ideally northern/midlands based.

    White water rafting interests and safety need to be considered carefully as this activity enables people with no white water skills to get a taste of the scene and provides vitally needed funds.

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