Edinburgh mountain bike park plan hit by protest action

Jim Slaven,'Fiona Henderson, 'Dorothy Tough' and Wullie Buchan at the area cleared for the bike track. Picture: Jon Savage
Jim Slaven,'Fiona Henderson, 'Dorothy Tough' and Wullie Buchan at the area cleared for the bike track. Picture: Jon Savage
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IT is a plan which ticks all the right political boxes: a bike park which would renew overgrown urban woodland, make people healthier and be run as a community social enterprise.

Yet the creation of Edinburgh’s first mountain biking jump park has developed a slow puncture.

A campaign has been launched to apply the brakes to the scheme as residents of Dumbiedykes and St Leonard’s claim the first they knew of it was when around 70 trees at Braidwood Gate were axed.

Almost 350 signatures have been collected in an online petition being sent to Communities Minister Alex Neil – although only five objections were received by the city council during the planning process. That, objectors claim, proves not enough consultation was done. However the Braidwood Bikepark Group, a small charity which is developing the scheme, known as Skelf, insists it carried out all consultation required and that the plan is supported.

The scheme has split the community between those who believe the trails will improve an area which is said to be a magnet for under-age drinking, drug-use and rough sleepers, and those who claim it is well used by children and dog walkers.

Skelf, which has the land on a 25-year lease, wants to create a mini Glentress mountain biking area. It would include trail runs and an asphalt “pump park” – a small circuit of rolling bumps and jumps.

But Fiona Henderson and Jim Slaven, two of the objectors who live in Dumbiedykes, claimed the plan would exclude residents who do not cycle – and cannot afford specialist bikes.

Ms Henderson, 55, a community learning development officer, said: “This land used to have tenements on it before they were knocked down and Dumbiedykes built, and so it was left to be the ‘garden’ for the high rises.

“Yes there might be times when there are problems with anti-social behaviour but that’s unlikely to change when the bike park is created as it could attract more of that behaviour at night.

“Over the last few years there has been research to ask people what they want and they do want better facilities for kids to play with and picnic areas and benches. No-one ever said they wanted a bike park. This is an idea which is being foisted upon people.”

Mr Slaven, 45, a history tours co-ordinator, said: “Our issue with this is not the bike park, or change, it’s about the fact there’s been a total lack of consultation with local people. Only now, once planning permission has been granted, have we been told the council sent out a letter a couple of years ago – I didn’t get one and have yet to meet anyone who did.”

Skelf is the brainchild of southside residents Angus Calder and Conrad Molleson.

Mr Calder said there was “misunderstanding” about what was happening.

He said: “The woodland does provide green amenity space but far from destroying it we will improve it for the benefit of local people. We will be replanting almost three times the number of new native species and fruit trees, as well as installing bird and bat boxes, footpaths and picnic benches.

“An enormous amount of effort has been put into sharing information with the community through events, talks, information stalls and newsletters. We have also sought feedback through a variety of consultations and used that feedback to help the project evolve in a way that reflects local residents concerns.

“Unfortunately, a small group of people objecting to the proposals have attempted to suggest that all local residents oppose the project. We know from the work done over the last four years this is not at all true.”

Resident David McRae, a local Scout leader who is in support of the project, said: “I know this plan will be great for the area.”