The owner of the Velolife cycle café in Berkshire says it is “an incredible relief” that the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead (RBWM) has withdrawn its application for an injunction over a planning dispute. “Finally common sense has prevailed,” said Lee Goodwin, echoing the words of Chris Boardman earlier in the week.
road.cc first spoke to Goodwin in August after learning that cycling clubs in the borough had been issued with injunction notices advising them that they could not use Velolife at any point during an organised ride.
The move stemmed from an enforcement notice alleging a breach of planning control in 2017. This had come about following a complaint from a neighbour about the premises, which had formerly been occupied by a pub. The notice sought to prevent the site being used as a café, a bicycle workshop, retail outlet and a meeting place.
Goodwin appealed, and in October 2018 a planning inspector ruled that while it was lawful for the café to operate as a cycling café with associated workshop, it could not be used as a “cyclists’ meet.”
The inspector explained that the noise and disturbance of cyclists gathering for rides, “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.”
The disturbance also led her to impose restrictions on Velolife’s opening hours, so that the business can only open between 9am and 7pm.
Goodwin thought that this resolved the matter.
“We were happy with the decision because we could still have cyclists come through and use us as a cycling stop,” he told 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.”
The RBWM letters threatening action against cycling clubs were subsequently withdrawn, but despite extensive campaigning from Cycling UK and British Cycling, the enforcement notice against Goodwin remained in force until this week. It had been due to be heard in court on Tuesday.
Speaking on Thursday, a council spokesperson said: “We are pleased that following a constructive meeting between Velolife and the council an agreement has been found which enables the cycling activities to continue while protecting the residential amenities.
“We are pleased that following a constructive meeting between Velolife and the council that an agreement has been found which enables the cycling activities to continue whilst protecting residential amenities.
“We have always wanted to find a pragmatic solution which allows Velolife to continue operations while protecting residents. We believe that may be possible with physical changes and controls to the Velolife car park that have been agreed by the management and leaseholders.”
Speaking to the Maidenhead Advertiser, Goodwin refused to be drawn on the specifics of those changes.
“We were approached by the council a few days ago [but] the details are confidential. They agreed with what we had said from the beginning.”
Asked to put his feelings into words, Goodwin said: “It is very difficult. I am very grateful. The support has been phenomenal. Finally we have come to a resolution. Finally common sense has prevailed. It is an incredible relief.”
Goodwin had been forced to ask cyclists not to meet up at his café in recent months. He added: “To run a business and be careful of being successful is a very silly situation to be in, but it had got to that point.”
Good Morning All, we look forward to seeing you later! pic.twitter.com/6N3NnyXOiE
— Velolife Cafe (@thevelolife) November 16, 2019