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When is a mountain bike park, not a mountain bike park?

In August 2019, an officer from BANES Council’s Leisure Team emailed a Bristol company called Architrail Velosolutions UK who design cycle tracks. He explained that the Council wanted ‘to turn an underused golf facility into a mountain bike/trail centre in the heart of Bath’, ideally with XC (cross-country) and downhill routes, and a pump track.


In October 2019, as the Council planned their public consultation on future uses of the Entry Hill site, Architrail Velosolutions UK sent an update, saying that they thought that the Entry Hill site was ‘very impressive’ and that the location within BANES was positive, as a cycling development would have a large local catchment and a wider appeal. They explained that they were working with a small Bristol company called Pedal Progression, on a proposal for mountain biking amenities.


Architrail Velosolutions went as far as to say that they thought the Entry Hill site was sufficiently large and varied to develop an Olympic standard XC track, with many short, bike park style runs of various grades, a skills area for coaching and 2 pump tracks. They described the potential for holding competition events at the site, and said that they were ‘fairly certain we can bring a round of the UCI (Union Cycliste Internationale) Red Bull World Championship Pump Track series within the first, or latest second year of operation’; and mentioned further opportunities for national level XC events, as well as short course Enduro events. They thought that they site could be become ‘an exemplary off road‐cycling hub in Bath’ and suggested that the BANES officers might travel to visit the new Olympic XC (cross-country) track for the 2020 Tokyo Games, which was ‘a leap forward in XC trail design’ to be kept in mind for any similar development in Bath.


The BANES Leisure Services officer thought this was ‘very exciting’ and in November 2019, Architrail Velosolutions submitted their concept design for a ‘huge range of off-road cycling facilities for visitors’ at Entry Hill. Their proposal was, they said, just a starting point, with room for much more if future funding allowed. This extensive concept plan, commissioned by BANES Council’s Leisure Team and published as part of publicity for the site, shows a proposal for filling most of the Entry Hill site with ‘pay-to-enter’ downhill tracks and pump tracks, with little space left for other leisure and recreation activity. Hardly surprising when you realise the scale of the ambition for this site!


But as the work to consult Bath residents on future use of the site progressed in 2019/20, this ‘huge range of facilities’, with world class cross-country bike tracks and pump tracks able to host world championship events suddenly morphed into a ‘family cycling centre’. It’s probably fair to say that most people who supported a ‘family cycling centre’ in the consultation would not have recognised this in the proposal commissioned by BANES for competition grade XC bike and pump tracks.


The consultation was followed by Cabinet decisions to fund the development of the bike tracks; and a tender to select the preferred operator for the Entry Hill site. In February 2021, Pedal Progression, the small Bristol company whose reason for existence is ‘to inspire, excite and develop mountain bikers’ were chosen to run the site – their bid was based on the concept plan BANES commissioned.


Emails followed between BANES officers and Pedal Progression about the press release to follow the announcement. This sentence jumps out from the email exchange. BANES Leisure Team stated, ‘You will notice that at this stage we are referring to the proposal as a ‘family cycle and activity park’. This is intentional to help us to engage with the residents/public.’


Pedal Progression were also keen to start to engage with the local community, and drafted a letter with a cheery introduction, explaining that as they would soon be our neighbours, they wanted to introduce themselves. Their letter described their mountain bike park project. Well – that is what they clearly think they have a contract to deliver – they have a plan for a mountain bike park - and after all, they were bought into this project due to their experience in…well…mountain biking.


They sent their draft letter to BANES Council, to make sure it was OK. On 25 February 2021, a council officer emailed Pedal Progression to explain that the Council would like to see amendments to the letter. They asked for all mention of a mountain bike park to be removed. The attached photo shows the Council’s proposed amendments in the photo attached.


So, when is a mountain bike park not a mountain bike park? When it’s on Entry Hill apparently!


Editor’s note: If you want to see the plan mentioned above, it is here on the Entry Hill website

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