“Everybody’s absolutely determined to make the Bulwell site work,” Phillip Darnton, Raleigh’s chairman, told bikebiz.co.uk today.
Everybody except three gardeners and a wealthy farmer, that is. An environmental survey found that there were no toads living on the planned £14m factory site, five miles north of Nottingham, but lawyers acting for the Bulwell Three and the wealthy farmer are now claiming that toads may, ahem, forage there.
Finding an endangered species living at the Bulwell allotments would certainly be enough to halt building work and make Raleigh find another site but it’s unclear whether planning permission can be rescinded on the off-chance that toads travel to the site, feed there and then waddle back to living quarters unknown.
Notts farmer Malcolm Hodgkinson owns 30 acres of land in Ashfield, a few miles from the Bulwell site. This is currently designated as green belt land but Hodgkinson was hoping this designation would be changed this year so he could redevelop the land. He wants Raleigh to buy the plot, hence his footing of the legal bills of disgruntled allotment owners Trevor Rose, Ann Spiers and Herbert Hyman.
These three allotment holders are out on a limb in their tussle with Nottingham city council. The rest of the Bulwell allotment holders want to be relocated quickly for husbandry reasons and, perhaps more importantly, to get their hands on their new tool sheds, communal loos and cash compensation. The council would stump up £1.6m to move the allotment holders, and their soil.
The Bulwell Three’s first legal challenge failed to get off the ground and Nottingham city council and the East Midlands development agency have both given the go-ahead for work to start on the disputed site in Bulwell. However, a fresh challenge has now been lodged. The three allotment holders, and the wealthy farmer, are seeking a judicial review of the council’s decision to grant planning permission.
As well as allegedly being supportive of the rights of toads to forage far and wide, solicitors acting for the Bulwell Three will be invoking the Human Rights Act, arguing that the three remaining allotment holders have a right to stay on the land they lease from the city council.
However, there’s a new twist in this long-running saga. Malcolm Hodgkinson, the wealthy Notts farmer, has just been told that his land cannot be changed from farming to industrial use. He may appeal against this decision.
Phillip Darnton remains optimistic (“I still hope sense will prevail,” he told bikebiz.co.uk) but he is also a realist and recognises that time is short. If a decision isn’t reached quickly in the Bulwell Three case, Raleigh may have to look for sites away from Nottingham. Other cities in the East Midlands would gladly extend help and grants to persuade Raleigh to move away from Nottingham.
“Raleigh and Nottingham are synonymous,” said Darnton. “But the timetable has no more slack in it. We’re in the hands of lawyers now.”
Raleigh sold its Triumph Road site in 2000 to the University of Nottingham and needs to be in a new location by the end of 2003.
6th December 2001: Raleigh's new factory gets the go-ahead
After a full re-examination of Raleigh's factory planning proposal, Nottingham city councillors have - again - given the green light to the Bulwell site
31st August 2001: Wealthy landowner is secret backer of the Bulwell Three
The three gardeners who are holding up Raleigh’s planned move to a former allotment site on the outskirts of Nottingham are being financially backed by a farmer who wants Raleigh to use his land for its new factory. The Raleigh MD says all allotment holders are being amply compensated and that Nottingham city council and the Environment Agency are to install toad crossings and relocate bats on the Bulwell site, so the farmer’s £10 000 legal fight will not win through