Monday, December 19, 2011

Danger Mouse and the BMX

It was a morning like any other morning.  I was having a coffee in a quiet cafe while enjoying the morning sun. The conversation was free and easy when suddenly an informational bomb was dropped. 

Dorset City Council is looking to build a BMX park on the Chewton Bunny in Highcliffe. The words sank in slowly, the absurdity of the idea washing through my brain, calling and waking my inner Danger Mouse.

I had to find out more so I started digging and this is what I found.

The above image is from Dorset's City Council website.  They pitch reasons why they think a BMX park would be a good idea. They have a link for an artists impression of the proposed site. I'm including it here. There's another link for a consultation response form which has to be in before Feb 3rd, 2012 to be counted.

While they pitch a very persuasive argument for the BMX park, I felt some points mentioned might have been misleading and other valid points of consideration were left out. The way the issue is being handled seems rushed. For instance, If you would like to write a letter of objection to the development, you will have to get it in before December 22nd. I don't know about you, but I always get suspicious of someone who's trying to rush me about stuff. If after reading my post you're local to the Dorset area and you object to the park being built, which I truly hope you do, you must write your letter and include the words
 to be counted and have it in before December 22nd. I'm just going to keep repeating the DECEMBER 22ND deadline because that seems to be a fact that's easy to lose on their pages. Those are very nice, conveniently rushed dates and hoops to jump through at a time when most people are occupied or out of town with Christmas.

Let's look at some of the statements from the Dorset City Council website that I feel might be a misrepresentation:

"The South Shore proposal aims to channel informal and potentially hazardous bike use into an exciting, safe and challenging new bike park."

It sounds like a well intentioned statement doesn't it? But for those who are residents in the area, the cold hard truth is that there aren't that many BMX bike users doing any type of hazardous bike riding in the area. Let's look at the demographics according to Dorset City Council's own website:

{Here's a link to their pdf where I got the figures from if you'd like to take a look}

I have no idea why they've decided to break the population into the segments as they did. The first segment spans people of a 15 year age difference. The next segment spans people of 45 years age difference. And then once again, they go back to breaking population down in 15 year spans. When dealing with statistics it's easy to skew the results of a study or poll by the way information is broken down. Therefore, I find the inconsistent break down of age segments worthy of scrutiny. They do however acknowledge that over 43% of the people in this area are 60+ years old. Let's get more specific to the Chewton Bunny area its self. Chewton Bunny is adjacent to retirement flats. Lots and lots of retirement flats:

Retirement flats adjacent to the Chewton Bunny

Retirement flats across from the Chewton Bunny

I can just about guarantee you, that 90% of the population within 1 mile of this proposed BMX park location are retired and over the age of 60 years of age. Just how many BMX riders does anyone think we have in an area of retiree's over the age of 60? Of all the photo's I've included so far on this page, how many BMX bikers have you seen? The green is indeed a beautiful place. People come from far and wide, mostly to walk their dogs or have a nice nature hike. But more importantly, the retiree's living in these flats, scrimped and saved their whole lives and bought their retirement residence alongside this beautiful location.

I'm fairly sure if they'd wanted to spend their last days looking out on a BMX park, they would've picked another location.

Let's take a look at their next statement:

"There are no other mountain biking facilities in Christchurch."

That's the webpage for the Bournemouth BMX Track.
Do you want to see the really interesting part to this website? Let's zoom in:

Nearest town: Christchurch. Maybe someone should let Dorset City Council know about that.
There was another interesting section I thought worth sharing:

Those distances are from the Bournemouth BMX park to the others. The Chewton Bunny where the new park is proposed to go is roughly 2.5 miles from the New Milton Skatepark listed above. All in all, there are 10 BMX trails and parks in the local area. Is anyone else wondering why we need another BMX park in this particular area yet?

There are serious environmental impacts to consider by choosing to develop on this Nature Reserve. I would love to see what environmental impact studies have been done before this decision was reached. As of yet, I haven't been able to find any. Soil erosion has been a serious concern for all residents for many years and those who are familiar with the Nature Reserve, will know that sections of it flood and stay relatively boggy for lengthy periods. Again and again, it seems an imprudent choice of location for this type of facility.

The Council just spent a good deal of money to give this Nature Reserve some needed attention. Improved walking paths and stairs all along the Chewton Bunny from the Chewton Glen Hotel to the sea front were relatively recently completed. Instead of the beautiful sea front these lovely revamped paths and stairs will open up onto a fenced off BMX park. How fiscally sound is it to invest in protecting and nurturing a Nature Reserve to then decide to develop it into a BMX park? In such trying economic times with austerity measures on the table, one would hope for more fiscal responsibility from their public officials. Surely, there are more appropriate uses for these funds or at the very least, a more appropriate location for this proposed park.

I know this might be a bit off the beaten path for some of my readers. Even if you're not local to this area and it won't directly affect you, I would love to hear your comments. I'm also considering sharing this post with one of the local papers. It would be interesting for them to see what the world thinks of this local political happening. If you're local to the area and would like an example of an objection letter, I have been fortunate enough to have a few from concerned citizens shared with me. I'll gladly email them to you. Just let me know in the comments below.




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  2. hmmm.. that sounds like a silly project to implement in that location. I know that a certain amount of research is put in to assess the needs of a community, but it seems to not make sense to me, especially after you've described the neighborhoods surrounding the area. I don't do any biking or skateboarding or whatnot, so I never really visited those kinds of fenced off "parks," but I know how some people/kids really want to have access to those kinds of places for THEIR own recreation. However, I agree with you about spending the money on something more urgent than a BMX park. I think that nature preserves are easier and more cost-effective to preserve than to rebuild from scratch, so any extra money should be allocated towards conserving and beautifying those instead. I've told you this before, but I think you should share this post/research to your local newspaper! You need to get a local conversation going!

  3. I'm not sure if I thin a BMX park is necessary such a pretty place to but a bike park in. The money could be used somewhere else.

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  5. I'm going to read this a little better and get back to you. . .I adore your passion for sure..

  6. [i]I can just about guarantee you, that 90% of the population within 1 mile of this proposed BMX park location are retired and over the age of 60 years of age.[/i]

    That can't be right. A 1 mile radius goes as far as the golf course to the west and up to the railway to the north, so it covers pretty much all of Highcliffe and Walkford. By the figures you quoted yourself, that means less than half the people in that area are over 60, and they won't all be retired.

    While we're talking distances, the chart of "other trails" is somewhat misleading -- those are "as the crow flies" distances, an actual real-world journey would be a lot longer. Also Iford's not Chewton Bunny -- it's about 11 miles to Watchmoor Wood or Moors Valley, which is a challenging round trip for a kid on a bike. You can't take bikes on buses...

  7. This is very well thought out and written. I agree that this seems extremely dodgey and misleading. I wish I could write a letter to oppose. If my grandparents went somewhere to retire and relax and then had to deal with an extreme sports field, I would be completely heated.

    As for Mike, I believe he needs to look closer at the figures. Yes, only 43% may be over 60, but 42% are between 16-59. I wonder how much is actually above 50 years old. You will also notice that this area has significantly higher elder occupants than the other towns. This says something! Even if it's not actually 90%, at least half of the residents are 50+. Does this not mean anything to you? Would you want your parents living around this?

    I haven't even gotten into the environmental part yet. Sheesh. This project is a disaster and I really hope that it gets shut down.

    Danger Mouse, keep up your good work.

  8. I'm not sure how familiar you are with the area immediately around the Chewton Bunny and its surrounding area but it is primarily a retirement area. Unfortunately, even if the people are over 60 and aren't all retired because of our poor economic times, I doubt that a significant portion of that population are out doing "potentially hazardous bike use". For anyone to imply that there is a significant amount of that type of activity in the area that requires a need for a BMX park to make it safe is misleading. The area's primary use year round, is typically for people walking their dogs or taking nature walks. In the summer, usage of the area increases to include people who like to picnic on the green, fly kites, and access the beach.

    According to Google maps the Golf course is just over a mile and the railway is 2 miles away. There is probably a higher percentage of individuals in the school and railway area outside of the immediate mile around the Chewton Bunny, that could make use of that facility, and it makes much more sense to place the proposed park in a more appropriate area which is what I suggest at the end of my post.

    I stated in the post, the distances on the chart of the "other trails" were relative to that particular park and not from the Chewton Bunny. I also pointed out that the New Milton skate park is only 2.5 miles from the proposed area. Most individuals I've spoken to consider Iford to be in the Christchurch area so it seems misleading to say there's no park for the area. The proposal is specifically promoting the park to be for the Christchurch area when Highcliffe is one of the furthest areas from what most people consider Christchurch proper. If people say "I'm going to Christchurch", they don't mean "I'm going down to the Chewton Bunny".

    I'm not saying that there should be no park built for BMX'ers. What I am saying, is that I don't feel the Chewton Bunny, one of the last undeveloped stretches of coastline between Barton on Sea and Bournemouth, in the middle of many many retirement flats, in an area that's been recently revamped with tax payer money as a Nature Reserve, which commonly floods or stays boggy, is the best location for one. That is not prudent fiscal planning.

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  10. This does seem really quite bizarre as a proposal - but sadly not uncommon as a potential example of a dubious use of public resources in what seems to be an unsuitable location.

  11. I agree Laura. I do understand the importance of having recreational facilities accessible. However, there are clearly facilities that fit that purpose for miles around in each direction. The more I think about how there are funding cuts for the National Health Service, the education system, the police forces, and the child tax credits, the sillier building a BMX park at all seems to be. I mean, I LOVE extreme sports. I really do. I just got finished watching some really amazing BMX stunts on YouTube:

    With that said, while watching it, all I could think is what a bad idea it seems to be to channel that kind of activity onto this particular location where the paths leading to the park would go around these retirement flats. Such a disappointment to see funding being applied like that to destroy such a lovely newly created nature reserve.

  12. i dont live in the area but sometimes you just have to wonder what councillors are up to?? and what motivates their thought process ?? unbelievable - you should get in touch with the local paper but it is prob too late with the 22nd deadline - have a very good xmas x

  13. Emily, Resplendent TranquilityDecember 21, 2011 at 6:27 PM

    It seems highly counterproductive to appropriate money toward protecting a Nature Reserve only to turn around a develop a BMX Park. And to build it within walking distance of retirement communities! Considering the demographics (even with the peculiar breakdown of age groups) it just seems silly to construct a youth oriented park on a site that is already friendly to ALL ages.

    Have you decided yet if you'll share this with a local paper? Your argument and presentation are strong. It would definitely be worth it.

  14. How glad I am to have found your blog, i live local to the Bunny and was horrified when I was first told about this project, but haven't been able to find anyone to contact about it and find out more. I picked you up from the pics of chewton bunny from a google search.
    I found your post informative and well put, how the council can even consider this is beyond me, just who was the callous person who first came up with this, BTW I don't think you mentioned the bike/skate park at Two rivers meet in Stanpit, another nice spot ruined, though not a patch on the Bunny. i painted a picture of a view from the Bunny in 1990 when I first came here, and it is included in the google site.
    Unfortunately I missed the 22nd December deadline for the petition, I read 3rd February.
    I walk my dogs down the bunny and at times do get cross at the increased number of cyclists since they improved the path, it will be many times worse when /if they go ahead with this. As you state there is a large retirement population in the vicinity, in fact Highcliffe is dubbed Zimmerland :-) because of it. Also think of the parking problems when people bring their children with skateboards, it's bad enough with the holiday makers, talking of which, what a godsend this will be for Naish , what an attraction as there isn't anything much for that particular age group,
    I think I've waffled on long enough, do feel free to get in touch even just as a sounding board.

  15. Hi Arlene! So glad to hear from someone who will be directly affected by this project. There have been further developments since I wrote this post. I've spoken with another local resident who phoned the council for more information. They spoke with Betsey Johnson I believe. They were told that the council was developing the BMX park in an effort to clear out illegal BMX riding in the St. Catherine's hill area across from Christchurch hospital. Apparently, some illegal BMX riding has resulted in severe devastation to the environment in that area and the council are hoping to recover it. I have no idea what they think will happen to the already fragile ecosystem of the Chewton Bunny by developing this park on it. One of the biggest concerns in the St. Catherine's hill area is all the underbrush that has been ripped out. With the soil erosion that's already a concern on the Chewton Bunny, I would think encouraging any activity that might result in a similar situation would be devastating and desperately undesirable.

    I've discovered a legal BMX park between the St. Catherine's hill illegal park and the Chewton Bunny. It's across from Sainsbury's at the round-a-bout. There is indeed a BMX park at Two Rivers Meet in Stanpit, and another listed in Somerford. The council is claiming there are no BMX parks in Christchurch and they're pitching the proposed park as being for the Christchurch area. It seems horribly misleading and a wasteful use of funds.

    Having illegal BMX park activity at one location won't dissuade that illegal bike activity simply because they build a park further away, beyond other already legal existing parks. That's like trying to stick a bandage on someone's foot when they have a cut on their hand. The issue isn't about not having enough parks available, it's about illegal destructive BMX usage. Seeing as a BMX park is just at the round-a-bout across from Sainsbury's and another in New Milton, and another illegal BMX track in LongMeadow area in Barton-on-Sea I'm baffled as to how using funds in this manner will help positively channel BMX use.

    It seems to me, building a BMX park on the Chewton Bunny deprives the vast majority of a broad spectrum of people the use of this area. The Chewton Bunny will become a space available only to a very small and finite portion of the population. As you've pointed out it will be difficult for people who are trying to walk their dogs, the elderly who are trying to get some exercise, the families with small children in prams to navigate, the beach goers in the summer, and many others. If in fact, building this park is seen as crucial one would hope that a more logical location would be in order such as on the open green area at the already existing play park in Highcliffe.

    Thanks so much for taking the time to leave a comment Arlene. Good luck and if you have any more info please feel free to contact me!

  16. Although the Public Consultation Deadline was Feb 3rd 2012 we are still taking objection letters into Christchurch Borough Council Offices and making sure they are logged before the CBC Public Meeting at St Mark's Church Hall, Hinton Wood Road, Highcliffe at 7.00 pm. on Tuesday 14th Feb. We are hoping that many objectors will attend this meeting.

  17. It's not too late to send in a letter of objection. Please do before the end of this week, i.e. Friday 10th Feb. Local objectors have been taking objection letters in personally to the Civic Centre, Bridge Street and making sure they get properly logged.

  18. So lovely to see your Blog and the photos of what is a beautiful open space beloved by all those who live and visit here. I really do hope that the Planners eventually see sense. This is not the place for a Mountain Bike Park, but a place for walking and contemplation. Those of us who live nearby have a duty to protect it for the generations to come.

  19. Latest news re: the proposal to build a BMX Bike Park in Chewton Bunny is that today we have learned that because most of the site is actually in Hampshire and Christchurch Borough Council 'forgot' to ask them for Planning permission, it seems that the proposal may be held up or withdrawn.

  20. Thanks so much Roberta! I'll add it to my update.