A council insists that it is not stopping cyclists from using a cycling café in Berkshire – despite having obtained an injunction that in effect does exactly that.
On Saturday, we reported how the owner of the Velolife cycling café in Warren Row, Berkshire, had received an enforcement notice preventing cyclists from meeting there.
Several cycling clubs based nearby the café, which lies three and a half miles south west of the Berkshire town of Henley-on-Thames, also received injunction notices telling them they could not visit the café at any point during an organised ride.
The issuance of the enforcement notices follows a planning dispute dating back to 2017, the year after Lee Goodwin took over the premises that formerly operated as a pub called The Snooty Fox which had been closed for 18 months and struggling for a couple of years before that.
In response to our story, the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead, which obtained the injunction, insisted that cyclists could still use the café, but “cyclists’ meets” were not allowed.
A spokeswoman for the council told road.cc: “The planning inspector has made it clear that groups of cyclists meeting outside Velolife café cause a nuisance to nearby residents.
“The appeal decision has concluded that the lawful use of the site is as a café with cycle repair. In this decision the planning inspector upheld and varied the enforcement notice and deemed that cyclist meets should not take place at the café but that cyclists are still welcome to use the café facilities but must not congregate outside.”
That appears to introduce an ambiguity to the interpretation of an earlier planning decision, as to whether or not cyclists are allowed to meet there; does a group of three or four friends, for example, who arrange to meet there or stop on a ride, constitute a “cyclists meet”?
In 2017, following a complaint from a nearby resident, Goodwin had received an enforcement notice requiring him to cease using the premises as a café, meeting place, cycle repair facility and for retail use.
He appealed that decision, and was permitted to carry on using them as a café with a bike workshop, but not for retail.
The inspector who made the appeal decision also changed the words “meeting place” to “cyclists’ meet,”.reasoning 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 added that if planning permission were given for use as a “cyclist’s meet,” events could be held more frequently, “and this element could intensify.”
The planning inspector also restricted Velolife’s opening hours, so it could only trade between 9am and 7pm.
On Saturday, Goodwin told road.cc: “We were happy with the decision because we could still have cyclists come through and use us as a cycling stop. 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.”
The enforcement notice received by Goodwin last week stated: “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.”
Goodwin said he was worried that the council’s narrow interpretation of the term could result in Velolife going out of business.
He explained: “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.”
We have asked the council to clarify its position, on a number of points:
If a cyclist rides to the cafe with friends, or a cycling group or club, and use the facilities, the council appear to define that as breaking the injunction. So what is the definition of 'organised' here? And how exactly are cyclists "welcome"?
We've also pointed out that the injunction goes on to state that cycle club members cannot meet at the cafe "arriving by any means, car, van or cycle, at any time of day or night". So two friends that happen to be members of the same cycling club that independently drove to the cafe and met each other would be breaking the injunction. What specific issue is this restriction designed to address?
We have also approached national cyclists’ charity Cycling UK for a comment on the issue.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.