Save Capital of Cycling – We’re in Danger!

Cycling hub on Hall Ings could close unless intervention is made


 

UPDATE: – We’re saved!  (At least for now!)

Update: On ther 22nd March we had a meeting with a senior NCP executive who very graciously spared time in his busy schedule to clarify for us their position regarding the premises. It was stated that their main concern was for the compliance of the building in relation to Health and Safety. They’ve since sent in an assessor and their contractors have made an itemised quote (which thankfully came out at approximately half the previously estimated amount) for the work needed to allow our tenancy to continue.  We’re now in discussion with the Council to see if they can help us undertake the work in order for the community cycling hub to continue in Bradford.  We’ll keep you posted.  Ideally with a combination of work undertaken by ourselves, with oversight from the Council, we could reach a positive outcome and we will be able to re-imburse the Council for monies spent.

We wish to thank NCP and Bradford Council for their patience and input so far.  In particular we now need the support of Estates in the Council to help push this through.


Bradford: Capital of Cycling is a community and charity collaboration which delivers cycling activities including riding training, maintenance, bike recycling, fun rides for health, disability cycling, youth training and many other life-enhancing services to the people of Bradford.  Over the last year we have been turning a huge space in the heart of Bradford into a vibrant, community hub with a unique indoor cycling facility.

One of our volunteers with Chris Boardman – with Bradford banners in the background

We have dedicated thousands of volunteer hours, many of our personal and organisational resources and have really put our heart and soul into building up the activities and facilities. We’ve helped build the profile of Bradford, boosted by the Tour de Yorkshire in 2017 and continuing its legacy. Last year we received, from Olympic gold medallist Chris Boardman, the award for best Cycling UK volunteer project.

Bradford Disability Sports and Leisure, The Margaret Carey Foundation, Choices 4 All, Bradford Cycling Campaign, Tim Curtis Arts and Bradford Cycle Club are the main partners invested in the space.

Sadly, we have been served surprise notice by the intermediate landlord, National Car Parks (NCP), that we should vacate the building by the 7th of April.

That part of NCP responsible for risk assessments have decided there is significant risk associated with the occupation of their empty retail units (and that this can only be fixed by spending £65,000 [since the date this was published an itemised quote of approximately half this amount has been recieved] in bringing the retail spaces to their standards of compliance). NCP have taken the view that there is no cost benefit for them in undertaking the works, thus our occupation has to cease.  think that a major fire in a Car Park in Liverpool recently may have, understandably, contributed to the thinking behind this decision but this is speculation on our part.

Their proposition is to release the management of their property to an organisation called WHR in Manchester, which specialises in securing business rates mitigation for their clients by using empty spaces to store goods. This could mean Bradford Council would receive no business rates from this usage. However, our town, which has a lot of empty shop-fronts already, would lose its cycling hub and a unique events space in a fantastic location.

Bradford Council is the ultimate landlord of this building. The authority, which hopes to create a new gateway entrance to the Interchange station on Hall Ings, bought the NCP car park under which our premises sit, for £4.15m in 2017, and it now leases the property to NCP. However, the current position we’ve had from them is that they don’t interfere with the workings of leases.  We’re not sure how possible it is that they might change their mind about this.

Public Engagement Event

Our tenancy is ‘meanwhile use’ so we essentially put the building to charitable use instead of letting it stand empty. The Landlord saves money on their rates bill and Bradford gains an exciting activities space.  A fantastic arts charity called Skippko helped us negotiate this arrangement – they took a risk with us in doing so and we’re really grateful for the work they’ve done here, alongside Jonny Noble, the City Centre Manager. The Council have been supportive of our activities so far, funding vinyl replacement for the windows and even sending a street sweeper vehicle inside to clear the cycling track. In turn we have enjoyed supporting many Council events and services.  

We knew our tenancy was temporary but, as the building is eventually due to be demolished to make way for a new Bradford Interchange, and thus unlikely to become a commercially let space, we had good reason to feel secure for at least three years. During that time, we knew we could do a lot of really good stuff.  No other city centre has a cycling venue like this one and we knew it would make Bradford a stand-out destination.

In terms of an Integrated transport system, the strategic thought behind the unique city centre location was that such a hub might be built in to future development plans involving the sites of the these buildings. Recent news that serious consideration is also being given to closing Hall Ings and linking the site to City Park also emphasises the importance of putting such a strategic marker down for cycling and physical activity. As John Dennis of Active Bradford put it, “City Park is the crossroads of Bradford’s cycling infrastructure and the scene of past and future cycling events. It should therefore be an ambition to have a high profile “Capital of Cycling” location right at its heart.”

The venue was showcased during the Active Cities Cycle Cities conference Bradford hosted last year and was the destination for the Chief Execs from both Leeds and Bradford Council on the Christmas Reindeer ride (because the venue is also an artists’ studio and many bizarre and wonderful bike ‘costumes’ and art have been produced here) .

The calendar was starting to get packed with events and activities with February half term being a watershed moment.  We had dozens of kids learning to use balance bikes, refugee families learning to ride, cycling for health sessions and maintenance sessions with Scouts.  We’d also been booked as a venue for an art and photography exhibition, a pedal powered cinema event and as a venue for a Bradford based film festival in the summer.  The venue’s potential was just on the cusp of being realised. The very next week we were awarded Gold Status as a Bike Friendly Business.

We have just recently been successful in applying for grants, being funded by City Connect via their Community Grants scheme to deliver a series of support services for Bradford commuters – focussing on encouraging active travel and also starting some really exciting projects for Bradford, working with community centres across the district.  All of this is unfortunately now thrown into doubt.

The timing therefore could not have been worse.  Apart from having to abandon a number of projects, we are really going to struggle to get bikes and facilities out of this building by the date set.  A lot of valuable work will simply have to go to the tip. Although there may be other venues we could relocate some activities to, it will be fragmented and diminished and the strategic importance of the location as a marker of intent for Bradford cannot be overstated.  But it’s our disabled riders, Bradford families, youth groups and so on who will be the losers for now.

Although it is unusual for the Council as landlord to intervene in these lease situations, as ultimate landlord, they do perhaps have the capacity to help. Is there perhaps a way that we could take the liability away from NCP and allow our activities to continue?

Our own professionally conducted assessment determined there is no imminent risk of a fire, very few flammable materials are being kept in the building, no naked flames are needed and the gas supply is switched off. We have a fire procedure and fire exits as you would expect.  There are things that could be done to make the space safer. We are willing to undertake or commission sensibly targeted work in this regard. We have public liability insurance for our activities and act very responsibly within the space.

We could spend a couple of days producing a detailed report about beneficiaries with a cost analysis to make a case for the social and economic benefits our activities have and will bring to Bradford, but this is time we don’t have.  

Cycling to Sanctuary: Bikes for Refugees Project

To give a flavour of how useful the space is – some of the organisations we’ve supported include:

  • Bradford Council via a number of regeneration and public engagement events
  • West Yorkshire Combined Authority (CityConnect cycles and more)
  • The NHS via ride to health and other referrals
  • Sustrans, trustees meeting bike storage and events space
  • Active Bradford, supporting the Active Cities Conference
  • The University of Bradford and Students Union
  • Martin’s House Children’s Hospice
  • Bradford Youth Services
  • Bradford Youth Offending Team
  • Bradford and Leeds Volunteer services
  • InCommunities by providing a job club
  • Probation Services by providing a range of activities
  • Culture Fusion
  • Scholemoor Community Centre
  • The Scouts
  • Bradford Refugee Action
  • City of Sanctuary
  • Street Support
  • Bridge
  • A range of other cycling friendly organisations such as Cycling UK, Queensbury Queens, Bolton Road Cycle Club, BME women’s cycling organisations Girls Gotta Ride, Onnabike.  
  • A wide range of charities have been supplied with bikes as a result of the bike recycling work of Bradford Bikery.

In the six months on the run-up to Christmas we have had over 3,000 people make use of the space. This was as we built up capacity from volunteers and gained additional paid staff. We expect to at least double this in the next six months should we be enabled to stay.  We are providing jobs, training and opportunities and so much more. We hope this activity is seen as part of Bradford’s direction of travel and as feeding into the Bradford District’s published cycling strategy and broader regeneration, transport, social and health programmes.

The clock is ticking for us and this now requires some decisive actions but at a level slightly beyond our direct reach.

If anyone is prepared to intervene or help us find an alternative, we’re very willing to talk.  

As mentioned, Bradford Council have bought this building, they are the ultimate landlords and they may be the only ones who can step in to save us, but we’d also welcome a conversation with NCP.

Bradford Council’s Assistant Director (Estates and Property) kindly contacted NCP on our behalf to enquire about their position. However this got knocked back with the statement about health and safety liabilities, again stating NCP would need to spend around £65,000 to assess and make safe the space.  Skippko had already let us know about this so we have been unable to progress beyond this general statement – which we think has been triggered by an event quite unrelated to the Bradford venue.

As is clear to all who visit, we are making highly productive use of the space and are fully willing to undertake or help fund additional work deemed necessary for building compliance.  This can be done for a lot less than £65k and there is a strong economic case which could be made to all parties, for having us stay here. However, it requires someone at a senior level to make this conversation happen.

Bradford has some of the highest levels of childhood obesity in the UK, it suffers congestion and air pollution problems alongside many other challenges which increasing cycling can help alleviate.  We are offering part of the solution to Bradford’s problems – and we’re doing it all at almost no cost to the public purse. We’re a really good news story in the face of budget cuts elsewhere in public services, and we’re not a drain on resources, quite the reverse.  We’re here to help Bradford. But now we need your help.

Please send your statements of support to your Councillors and MPs, pledge your support on Twitter and social media (@CyclingCapital, @BradfordMDC and @Kersten_England) and describe the uses and help your organisations or friends have had from our activities. Keep us posted – this isn’t over.  

We have received general statements of support from individuals within the Council but we need this to translate into meaningful action.  If you mean what you say, help us convince NCP and Bradford Council that it’s in everybody’s interest for us to stay where we are.

You can write to your MP or Councillor via the website www.writetothem.com and we have drafted a letter you could copy then edit to save time. Tweet your support to @CyclingCapital and @BradfordMDC @NCPCarParks & add your councillor and MP.

We are grateful to Skippko, NCP and Bradford Council for the privileges we’ve been afforded and do not wish to cast them in a bad light.  However, the notice given for moving out damages delivery of vital projects. If we are forced to move, which looks increasingly likely, a stay of execution to August would at least give us a chance to find another venue and be able to prepare for a move without undermining our ongoing work.  As it is, so much of what we’ve worked to build will be destroyed and even with a stay of execution the strategic value of the location to Bradford’s future development would be lost. Please use your influence to prevent this from happening.

Thanks for reading – David Robison (Co-Director of Capital of Cycling – dave@capitalofcycling.org)

Comments 2

  • This is terrible, terrible news. We have written to our MP and all the appropriate councillors and are available for more active intervention (sit down / cycling protests) if required. Dave, this must be such a slap in the face for you and all the other volunteers down there who have worked so hard ….. we are so sorry. We really hope the situation can be swung – from the outside perspective (‘cos we know better) Bradford has so little to go for it and we often quote this as a shining example of what Bradford can offer when it puts its mind to it. Surely sense has to prevail?

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