Holme Pierrepont plans finally revealed

Holme Pierrepont whitewater course showing the pools that will be filled in.

Holme Pierrepont whitewater course showing the pools that will be filled in.

Holme Pierrepont whitewater course as it is now

Holme Pierrepont whitewater course as it is now

Proposed changes to Holme Pierrepont whitewater course

Proposed changes to Holme Pierrepont whitewater course

Here are the plans at last for this December’s proposed changes to Holme Pierrepont. Have a look and see what you think – and please do share your thoughts in the comments box below…

A few points:

  • The proposed changes use the plastic Omniflot system, much like on the top half of the course as it is now, but with slightly different bollards
  • Much like the earlier plans, most of the deep pools are proposed to be filled in
  • There’s a proposed wall to be built across the Magic Roundabout to seperate the back channels from the main flow
  • The course above the Pyramid pool and below the bottom stopper won’t see many changes
  • This is all we’ve got so far – plans and an artist’s impression. The next stage is computer modelling.

The onus is now on the BCU to persuade the course’s users that these changes will be an improvement. I’ve offered as much help as I can afford to spread the message and to put out the facts.

We need to be able to envisage how the new course will look and perform.

We need to see successful examples of Omniflots in action that are forming the sort of playspots and river features we’re being promised.

We need to see that it’ll support and encourage rafting enough to keep the course earning money and open when it changes ownership.

In short, we’ve got a fantastic and unique facility already – we need persuading that these changes are a guaranteed improvement, rather than hurried modifications for the sake of it. Hundreds of people have pledged their support for full consultation and a deep channel course. Let’s keep up this free and open flow of information, because we need convincing.


Yesterday’s consultation meeting

Proposed changes to Holme Pierrepont whitewater course

Proposed changes to Holme Pierrepont whitewater courseInfill proposals for Holme Pierrepont whitewater course

Infill proposals for Holme Pierrepont whitewater course

Infill proposals for Holme Pierrepont whitewater course

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.

Consultation meeting tonight

This information came through from the BCU last week – sorry I’ve been too busy to get it up until now…


Subject Holme Pierrepont White Water ‘In’ Course Proposals
Time and date 6pm Monday 18th August 2008
Location “The Patio Lounge” at the National Watersports Centre,
Holme Pierrepont Nottingham
Invitees Open to all white water course users

Draft agenda
1. Welcome, Introductions and purpose
2. Presentation of draft proposals by Andy Laird of EPD Ltd
3. Presentations by users
4. Open forum
5. Summary and way forwards

The draft proposals will be put on the BCU web site and made available for others following the meeting.
A period of consulting will take place which will end 3rd September.

On behalf of Chris Hawkesworth
Planning and Facilities Manager

I’ll be there, and I’m sure I won’t be on my own. It’s open invite, so please do come along if you can.

Is two weeks long enough for full consultation? Who knows, but I’ll be pressing the point. I’ll also be taking messages of support for a versatile course and full consultation from 568 people, including 412 BCU members. I’ll make sure to get a full report up and online tomorrow. Chloe Nelson-Lawrie from the BCU has also promised to get the plans onto the BCU website for open consultation – I’ll put up a link when they go live.


‘From the horse’s mouth’

In the week or so since I set up this blog, there still hasn’t been a public statement from the BCU about the changes to Holme Pierrepont white water course.

I’ve emailed Chris Hawkesworth, their facilities manager, to let him know I’d love to post up their take on it. Instead of a press release or statement, he’s asked me to post a private email exchange between himself and Matt Chadder about the course’s future.


MC: I think we need to draw up a list of the people most relevant to this debate who represent the interests and needs of canoe sport at Holme Pierrepont. Whilst I have direct contact with many interested people, how can we select those most appropriate. It is certainly not just down to me to nominate those people to represent canoesport and I would welcome your help and insight with other projects. I have CC the people currently most involved or relevant in my opinion.

CH: It would seem to me that we are suffering from the lack of an HPP user group. There never has been one dedicated to the HPP WWC but even the one chaired by Albert Woods was disbanded by Sport England without the BCU even being told that it was disbanded. So representatives are those that bubble to the top and are passionate yet sensible and constructive with their approach. In short, the representatives for now are anyone who says they are.

MC: Given EPD are already drawing up plans to be presented on the 11th, do you think it would be more suitable to let them have some ideas, requirements and specifications from the other canoe sport perspectives before hand. Whilst I know that Andy Maddock (World Class Slalom) has kindly passed on the information we presented in May, this is not really a document that relates to specific requirements. I would hope bring this information forward would only help EPD in their planning. I have also asked everyone to stay positive and imagine how good this development could be for everyone.

CH: Yes, by all means let’s have ideas from anyone anywhere, but give them to me to co-ordinate first.

MC: I would suggest the second agenda is more suitable for the meeting with the exception that there should be a specific topic raised for every canoe sport discipline as it is essential to give all users the chance to speak and input at this stage. Indeed these might only be 5 minute presentations but I still think it essential.  We therefore should consider (a) Slalom (b) Freestyle (c) Rafting (d) Recreational Users (e) Safety and Rescue (f) Down River Racing. I would like to point out that as far as I can foresee the rafting section is critically important as this really effects the level of income Nottingham County Council can expect to see after April 09. I would also ask all these people to bring with them a considered document / presentation that is representative of their own athletes / members or customer needs.

CH: Yes, I agree with you. Lets have an hour or two of well argued presentations.

MC: I am unable to attend the meeting on the 18th, nor is James Reeves or Ian Bebbington. Given the importance of the meeting can we not bring it forward to the 12th or 13th or even before the 11th so EPD have a chance to integrate the broader wishes and needs of the group? I know that Andy Maddock has suggested that EPD make their presentation before the users have a chance to contribute – which seems a little back-to-front to me hence this suggestion of moving the meeting forward before the 11th.

CH: These summer meetings are catching me on the hop just like you. I am in Cardiff on the 12th looking into their ideas and on the 13th we are trialling some of the new “In river” features at the Washburn and these have been in my diary for a while. So it has to stay on the 18th for now and we all have to do the best we can.

MC: I think it would be most appropriate to use a room at the main centre building so we can have a round table where everyone shares equal weights and views. I hope that Simon maybe able to organise this for us as indeed he will most likely be in the meeting too?

CH: I agree with you again. We will discuss on Monday the 11th the venue for the 18th.

MC: Finally, I still think we need an over-riding policy statement from the BCU that guides us through this process. For example if we take Paul’s e-mail from yesterday we know he said the BCU wants to “encourage modifications that meet the requirements of the whole canoeing community” Perhaps you can clarify this point before the meeting as it will help everyone stay focused and remain on the same agenda, otherwise we run the risk of different users calling gun shot over certain ideas.

CH: I think Paul’s views are exactly what he says. In short, what you see is what you get with both of us. We both share your concerns. I think it fair to say that we are looking very hard to see how we can do for the best of everyone. I have had no pre-conditions placed on me except to sort things out and make recommendations quickly. Quickly being defined as September 3rd.
Since we, each in our own way know what the HPP WWC means to us right now, we should be able to answer the “What if?” Scenario speedily.

What a difference a week makes

Last Sunday, barely anyone knew about any plans for changes to the whitewater course at Holme Pierrepont. If they did, they mostly thought it was a vague concept that wouldn’t happen for ages.

But quite a lot can happen in seven days.

Over the last week:

  • 521 people have pledged their support for a deep water course and full consultation.
  • 377 of these people are BCU members, smashing our goal of 280.
  • The users’ group has put together a full report on what the course means for recreational paddlers, rafters, playboaters, Wild Water Racers and Whitewater safety and rescue training.
  • We’ve sent this report to the BCU in lieu of an invite to today’s meeting over the course’s future.
  • The BCU have scheduled consultation meetings on 18th August and 3rd September.

We’re waiting eagerly for the BCU to publish details from today’s meeting to let everyone know what’s happening. As soon as they do, I’ll post it up here.


HPP plans for greater good?

Stu Morris - image from ukfreestyle.com

Stu Morris - image from ukfreestyle.com

I’ve just had a round-robin email from a mate of mine, Stu Morris. I’m sure he won’t mind me posting it here because it was sent to loads of our mates and copied in to most of the World Class team.

For those who don’t know Stu, he’s done pretty much everything there is to do in paddling. He’s been C1 European freestyle champ, he’s been a top-notch slalomist, he’s creeked, instructed and the rest. He’s also a top-notch product designer – he’s done kayaks and open boats for Robson, and it’s Stu who painstakingly designs and shapes each invidual boat for each individual Olympic athlete.

Have a read through Stu’s email, and through my response, and then imagine the robust conversation we’ll be having in the pub when he gets back from Beijing!

From: Stu Morris
To: loads of people
Subject:HPP plans for greater good?

Well its not for everyone but change is good and improves one’s boating skills!

If it’s anything close to Beijing, Tacen, Augsburg, Bourg, Penrith or any of the other major White Water Stadiums in the World that the World Class Team visit on a regular basis then the people of HPP are in for a real treat.

I think we are more in danger of having a so called ‘White Elephant’ on our door step if the changes don’t go ahead!

Best Regards,

Stu Morris

Creeker, Playboater, Slalom Paddler, Open Canoeist.


From: Pete Cornes
To: Stu Morris
Subject: RE: HPP plans for greater good

I completely agree with you – £1.2m investment could be absolutely fantastic for everyone who uses the course.

But without consultation with all the interest groups who use the course on a daily basis, the concern is that we’ll end up with a course for the few rather than a course for the many. Like Penrith – I know you’ll say that it was good enough to hold the Freestyle worlds there, but that was only after a huge amount of investment to turn an Olympic course into a viable going concern that also suits rafting, playboating and recreational paddling.

Clear and open consultation is essential to developing a brief that will take into account all water users – so let’s all get involved and use this opportunity to develop the grass roots as well as the elite.


Pete Cornes.

Massive support for full consultation

Have your say

Have your say

Support’s been staggering so far, with over 200 responses in 24 hours. So thank you everyone who’s filled in the support pledge and who’s encouraged other people to do the same.

But we still need more pledges. I’ve done my sums and what will really give us strong support is having pledges from 280 BCU members. Because we’ve also got email addresses, it means we can get back in touch with everyone instantly if we need more support.

So I’m asking everyone who’s given us their support to spread the word on to two more people – ideally BCU/ECA/WCA/SCA/CANI members. That’s how we’ll spread the word. So pick up the phone, send out a text, fire through an email or Facebook a friend. Ask them to read up on this blog and then fill in the support pledge.

So thanks for the help, and keep spreading the word! Together we’ll call for clear representation in the process, and safeguard the future of Holme Pierrepont for all users.

Pete C.