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Velolife could go out of business while fighting the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead’s bizarre interpretation of planning rules

A cycling café in Warren Row, Berkshire, could go out of business after the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead issued an injunction barring cyclists from meeting there or even making a stop during organised club rides.

Velolife opened in 2016 in what was formerly The Snooty Fox, a pub that had been closed for about 18 months and had struggled leading up to that.

In 2017, Velolife was issued with an enforcement notice alleging a breach of planning control. The requirements of the notice were that owner Lee Goodwin cease to use the premises as a café, meeting place, cycle repair facility and for retail use.

Goodwin appealed the decision and Velolife was permitted to continue as a café with a bike workshop, but could not be used for retail. In her appeal decision, the inspector also changed the wording of the other element from “meeting place” to “cyclists’ meet” and upheld that.

The issue, it seems, was that a neighbour had been disturbed by groups of cyclists congregating close to their property in the early mornings and evenings.

“It is likely that this level of noise and disturbance would be more discernible and different in character from the activities that might have arisen from the former use a public house where, for example, patrons might have arrived and departed at more staggered intervals and not during the early morning,” reasoned the inspector.

Explaining the rewording, she said that the term “meeting place” was wide in its meaning and could encompass a range of purposes, “whereas the allegation is intended to target the use of the land as a place where cyclists meet prior to departing on organised rides and events.”

She concluded that if planning permission were granted for use as a “cyclist’s meet,” events could be held more frequently, “and this element could intensify.”

The disturbance caused also led her to impose restrictions on Velolife’s opening hours, so that the business can only open between 9am and 7pm.

“We were happy with the decision because we could still have cyclists come through and use us as a cycling stop,” Goodwin tells road.cc. “All we were not to do was organise club rides that started at Velolife – which we don’t do.

“However, the council decided to take the notion that a “cyclists’ meet” encompassed any gathering of cyclists before, during or after a ride of any sort.”

An injunction issued this week now says that Goodwin has to prevent cyclists from meeting at Velolife.

The enforcement notice states: “It is the Council opinion that [cyclist meets] involves, and will include the gathering of cyclists for organised rides, whether they start, finish, or are constructed to use the land and building during such events. If, at any stage during a cyclist’s meet, the activity is engaged on the land or in the building will constitute a breach of the requirements to cease the use.”

Some clubs in the borough have also been issued with injunction notices, saying that they may not use Velolife at any point during any organised ride they do.

Goodwin says that the decision is discriminatory towards cyclists, “because anybody else can gather whenever they feel, in whatever numbers they feel. You could come by elephant or car or tractor if you wanted.”

Nevertheless, he has been forced to take to Facebook to urge local cyclists not to meet at Velolife prior to departing on a ride or then after the ride has finished, adding: “Not complying with these rules jeopardises Velolife’s future.”

Goodwin explains: “Even if the council and I are having a slight difference of opinion on what the inspectorate actually had in mind, with the council’s opinion they can prosecute me and force me to stop cyclists coming on site and basically destroy my business, where myself I have no access to that.

“I have to apparently sit and take it. When we do finally land up in court – and the earliest will be in November – I won’t have a business to defend if they stop cyclists coming on site.”

Alex has written for more cricket publications than the rest of the road.cc team combined. Despite the apparent evidence of this picture, he doesn't especially like cake.