British Cycling Policy Adviser Chris Boardman has called an Enforcement Notice, placed on a cyclist café by a local council 'a shameful waste of scarce public money to prevent an activity they should be strongly encouraging' and has called on Windsor and Maidenhead Council to withdraw an injunction which could lead to imprisonment for the café owner if cyclists meet at his café.
Law firm Leigh Day have written to Windsor and Maidenhead Council on behalf of Lee Goodwin, who runs the Velolife café and workshop in Warren Row Berkshire.
Mr Goodwin is challenging the Council’s attempts to seek an injunction over an Enforcement Notice, which was first put in place in October 2017, following a complaint from a neighbour.
The Council issued the Enforcement Notice as it alleged a breach of planning control in the running of the café. The Notice sought to stop the café operating as café, a bicycle workshop, retail outlet and a meeting place.
Mr Goodwin appealed the Enforcement Notice and in October 2018 a Planning Inspector, appointed by the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, partially upheld his appeal, finding that it was lawful for the café to operate as a cycling café with ancillary workshop provision.
The ‘meeting place’ was deleted from the Enforcement Notice by the Planning Inspector but amended to prohibit the Café as a ‘Cyclists’ meet’. The Inspector held that the Enforcement Notice was “intended to target the use of the land as a place where cyclists meet prior to departing on organised rides and events”.
The Inspector’s decision was published in October 2018 and shortly afterwards Mr Goodwin ceased running organised rides from the café and the retail operation at the café.
However, the Council have continued to pursue the matter because a neighbour was unhappy with the fact that large numbers of cyclists were still using the café and threatened to bring criminal proceedings against Mr Goodwin for breach of the Enforcement Notice.
In July 2019, the council issued an application for an injunction to prevent groups of cyclists ‘congregating’ at the café. The injunction was also sought against cyclists using the café in groups (‘persons unknown’) and was sent to local cycle clubs.
Lawyers for Mr Goodwin claim that Windsor and Maidenhead Council argue for a much wider interpretation of the term ‘Cyclists’ Meet’ than was envisaged by the Inspector, covering any group of cyclists using the café before, during or after an organised ride.
If the injunction is granted Mr Goodwin would be in contempt of court if any group of cyclists stop at the café for refreshments, which could lead to him being committed to prison for contempt.
At the first hearing of the application in July, the Judge directed the parties to go away and try to reach agreement on the definition of ‘Cyclists’ Meet’ and seek a workable solution prior to trial of the application which is listed for 19 November 2019.
British Cycling Policy Adviser, Chris Boardman, said:
"I personally visited Velolife café and I didn't see a nuisance, just a fantastic local business serving the community in a wholly desirable way.
"The café stop is integral part of British cycling culture, serving clubs, solo riders and families up and down the country, making a valuable contribution to the local economy.
"That the council are actively trying to ban something that is good for everyone seems a shameful waste of scarce public money, to prevent activity they should be strongly encouraging. I urge the council to withdraw the injunction immediately in the interests of all involved.”
According to Jamie Beagent, the lawyer for Mr Goodwin from the law firm Leigh Day:
“Our client has so far attended three meetings with the Council and has bent over backwards in attempting to work with them to mitigate the alleged harm to the neighbouring property.
“These efforts include actively discouraging cyclists from meeting at or near the café prior to departing on an organised ride, publicising the fact that this is not permitted on social media, demarking the neighbours’ access route through the café car-park, putting up ‘no bicycles beyond this point’ signs and physically moving cycle racks.
“Despite these efforts the Council seem intent upon pursuing the injunction both against Mr Goodwin and against cyclists in general.”
In the letter sent on Friday 4th October 2019, to the Council from Leigh Day on behalf of Mr Goodwin, lawyers set out the fair and sensible definition of a ‘Cyclists’ Meet’ and the inappropriateness of pursuing an injunction in these circumstances.
Mr Beagent said: “It is clear that the enforcement notice as approved by the planning inspector prohibits only the organised meeting of cyclists at the café prior to departing for a ride. The Council’s attempts to widen the definition are ill-founded and wholly inappropriate where taking the draconian step of seeking an injunction.
“It is inappropriate for an injunction to be made against Mr Goodwin where he is doing everything reasonably within his power to prevent ‘Cyclists’ Meets’ taking place at Velolife and it is truly chilling that Mr Goodwin faces imprisonment if third parties, outside of his control, were to meet at the café prior to departing on a ride.
“We will be inviting the Council to discontinue the application to prevent further legal costs being wasted. If the Council decline, then we will be vigorously defending Mr Goodwin at the injunction claim on 19 November.”
Representatives from British Cycling and Cycling UK are continuing to support the Velolife café.