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100-acre Lincolnshire Wolds cycle park plans narrowly passed, but campaigners say public’s wishes have ‘fallen on deaf ears’

Steps to convert a 100-acre section of the Lincolnshire Wolds into a dedicated cycle park have passed the next stage, after East Lindsey District Council’s planning committee narrowly approved the updated plans.

Lincs Design Consultancy Ltd was first granted planning permission for the off-road cycle park in the Hinton Estate near South Willingham, back in December 2022.

This came despite dozens of objections from local villagers, who feared it would not only create wildlife and biodiversity headaches given the Lincolnshire Wolds’ status as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), but also access and congestion problems in the area.

The proposed Wolds Cycle Park near South Willingham Photo: Lincs Design Consultancy
The proposed Wolds Cycle Park near South Willingham Photo: Lincs Design Consultancy

East Lindsey District Council’s planning committee still gave the green light for the project, but imposed conditions on the development that denied construction until method statements and sufficient management plans were submitted and approved.

A re-application addressing concerns has since been submitted, with primary focus on condition 17 of the approval, relating to development phasing.

The applicant has cited the “current financial climate” as a reason for alterations to initially approved plans, saying the project should instead be completed in stages.

Wolds Cycle Park plans
Wolds Cycle Park plans

Phase one would be for access, parking and passing places, phase two for trails in the northern fields and main perimeter loop, and then south field trails, the visitor centre, pump track and learn to ride track come later.

Phased development would allow the applicant to open the site to the public before full completion of all stages, and mentions of ad-hoc events at the site were included in fresh proposals.

This is the issue that was debated and decided by the planning committee, but that did not stop members querying how the proposal was granted permission back in 2022, let alone now with the alterations.

Coun Terry Knowles (Independent) was told by the chair to “behave” after he declared that he was “absolutely astounded” as to how the Wolds Cycle Park was approved in the first place.

Daniel Sharp, the director of applicant Lincs Design Consultancy Ltd, pointed out that permission was “approved unanimously” by the planning committee two years ago, and that the Wolds Cycle Park already has “valid planning approval.”

“This seeks solely to agree details and vary the phasing development,” Mr Sharp told the committee. “I request that you accept the officer’s findings and move forward for approval.”

Addressing the vast volume of objections to this new amendment, the applicant said it notes the concerns but says they “almost exclusively reject the premise of the bike park, and that is not up for question in this application.”

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Shirley Asquith, who spoke on behalf of one of the lead opposers to this project, South Willingham Parish Council, compared the application to that of the Post Office scandal by saying resident concerns had “fallen on deaf ears.”

“Sadly, the residents of South Willingham feel like Mr Bates vs the Post Office,” she said. “We understand the decision went against us, but the applicant now seeks to rescind conditions and hold ad-hoc events on a barely constructed site.”

The Parish Council feared that this would be “yet another failed venture” for focused bike rides, and asked what would become of the site, situated on an Area of Outstanding Beauty, no less, should the project fall on hard times.

Shirley Asquith asked: “What use could this be put to when the bike park fails to turn a profit and becomes a redundant field of damaged land?”

These views were shared by ward councillor Richard Fry (Conservative), who said residents have “genuine and serious misgivings” about the development.

He called for the planning committee to “recognise the application for what it is,” alleging it is a “request to remove and dilute” the conditions in initially agreed proposals.

“Lives will be blighted by this for the foreseeable future,” he said.

However, when it was taken to vote, the planning committee approved plans by a margin of six in favour and four against.

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This is not the end of the Wolds Cycle Park saga. The applicant, as per requirements in this recent approval, must present landscaping plans for phases three and four in the future, before proceeding with their development.

When asked about commitments to these phases, the council officer said the applicant had not supplied any costing plans or financial statements, and it could not commit to timescales for completion given the processes it must first go through for approval.

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