Row over access at proposed outdoor activity centre at Wick Quarry

Some of the concerned residents near the proposed entrance

Plans to create the South West’s leading outdoor centre in a disused part of Wick Quarry are being recommended for approval, despite local concerns that the country lanes leading to the proposed car park are narrow and inadequate.

Whilst the main quarry entrance is located off London Road on the south of the site, UK Active Outdoors Ltd’s plans are for an area to the north of the quarry which would be accessed via Rock Road, with a new 40-space parking area near the northern lake.

The plans are widely supported, but some local residents are deeply unhappy about the proposed car park entrance because of fears about the impact on those who use the narrow network of lanes – horse riders, walkers, cyclists and families walking their children to school, as well as farm vehicles.

They say there have already been a number of road accidents in the area, that on-street overflow parking has not been considered and that parking in the area is already difficult due to visitors to the Golden Valley Nature Reserve.

They say they would rather see access through the main quarry entrance or via one of the other entrances that have been blocked up over the years.

And they are furious that the ward councillors did not ‘call in’ the planning application within the five-day time slot for debate and decision by the planning committee, rather than it being delegated to a council director to approve.

The residents are now pinning their hopes on the director himself referring it to the committee, a move that is within his power under the council’s constitution but for which there has been no precedent.

Wick & Abson Parish Council has said it is not against the idea of the activity centre but has concerns about the proposed access routes and parking. Doynton Parish Council has also said that the potential for extra traffic through the lanes is a concern and the British Horse Society has also raised concerns about the access.

This week the owner of UK Active Outdoors Ltd, Tristan Bawn, stressed that an alternative route through the working quarry was not possible and that it is in the company’s interest to provide a safe route for their customers.

He said that their transport consultants had found that the local highway network “operates with large volumes of capacity and the anticipated uplift in traffic form the outdoor centre can easily be accommodated”.

The consultants’ report adds that there would be traffic management protocols for people arriving and leaving the centre to limit the impact on local roads, including the possibility of a private shuttle service from a local car park which would allow traffic on the local network to be kept to a minimum. There would also be measures in place to encourage sustainable transport.

The council’s highways officer says that while the proposal would increase traffic movement in the area, it can be adequately accommodated. The council planning officer recommends planning permission is granted.

This week ward councillor Steve Reade told The Week In said that not calling in the plans had been “an honest mistake”.

He said he had apologised to residents and admitted that he did not correctly judge the mood.

He said he supports the planning application for the outdoor centre but shares concerns about access.

The Week In has asked the council for a statement on what is happening with the planning application.

Widespread support for an open water swimming venue

Approximately 350 responses have been received to the planning application with a greater number in support of the proposals.

The activities being planned include swimming, stand-up paddle boarding, kayaking, axe throwing, archery, target sports, bushcraft, wild art, and conservation classes.

The proposed use is seen as an interim one, pending the ultimate restoration of the body of water and the quarry complex to a nature reserve in accordance with planning permission already granted.

The scheme includes using five converted shipping containers for an office, café and meeting rooms and the application refers to a temporary period of 15 years.

Writing in support of Wick Outdoor Centre, one local GP said: “I feel it would offer a valuable resource for supporting the health and wellbeing of the community by promoting engagement with nature, opportunities for healthy physical activities, a much-needed hub for safe social gatherings outdoors as well as a source of local employment.”

Another supporter said: “There is such a deficit of open water swimming venues – especially organised venues so this will be a huge benefit to so many people.”

However, it has been pointed out that many of the comments in support of the proposal come from people based in Bristol or further afield.

One objector observed: “One of the comments said that Bristol and Bath is crying out for a wild swimming facility such as this. This is true but simply reinforces that a village such as Wick is an inappropriate place for that facility as it cannot cope with visitors from the two major cities in the vicinity and that the traffic volumes would increase exponentially.”

Historical refusal

Objectors point out that between 2000 and 2003, plans to build a house on land at Rock Road were refused several times by South Gloucestershire Council because of road safety concerns, and there was a failed appeal to the Planning Inspectorate.

The refusal reasons included concerns about the increase in traffic on Rock Road, which was described as a substandard road with no footway, and the extra traffic on to the substandard junction with the classified Abson Road.

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