Who has padlocked the gates at Broadfield Park Virgin Active?
What is going on with the Sheaf Valley Cycle Route?
CycleSheffield officers were phoned today (Friday 11 Oct) by Sheffield City Council officers to see if they were responsible for some direct action. Apparently someone had padlocked the internal gate in the yard of Virgin Active (VA) in Broadfield Park and it couldn’t be opened. And it wasn’t a member of VA staff. This branch of VA has recently left internal and rear service gates open so that its clients can drive in and out on Saxon Rd as well as Broadfield Park, and this has also allowed other drivers to use it as a rat run.
The Sheaf Valley Cycle Route runs up to and alongside VA. Cyclists have to make a right turn onto a path or join oncoming traffic from the left. Vehicles using the VA Saxon Rd gates cut across the Sheaf Valley Cycle Route in both directions and a Sheffield Council officer commuting to work has witnessed a cyclist being knocked off their bike by a car using the Saxon Rd entrance.
CycleSheffield has a vocal campaign to get the gates closed again because it is a hazard but the Council have been powerless so far and the manager, Phil Scott, of VA has no intention of closing them unless his head office says so or the Council direct him to do so, backed up by appropriate regulations or legislation. When it was argued that he was negligent he refused to talk to cyclists and will now only talk with the Council.
CycleSheffield have stated that the padlocking was not their direct action but speculate that it may well be some disgruntled cyclist. CycleSheffield does not renounce direct action but would always own up to it because publicity is one of the main aims of direct action. It has circulated details of the padlocking to its members but no-one has admitted to doing it.
The reason VA can leave the gates open is because VA never complied with its planning permission to put in bollards. VA put in a gate instead, and now allows all the gates to be open all the time. Sheffield Council never ensured compliance and because over 10 years have elapsed, SCC can’t now enforce the planning regulations it set for VA in the first place.
The consequences of the failure to ensure compliance means that all the money and time Sheffield Council spent on designing the road layouts on Broadfield are wasted and all the money and time it spent on putting in the Sheaf Valley Cycle Route are not only wasted but the route itself is now knowingly hazardous. Who is to blame? Not the person who probably in exasperation has padlocked the gate but one’s ire should be directed at Virgin Active and Sheffield City Council.
Please find below the email sent to SCC’s interim Head of Planning today.
To Maria Duffy
Interim Head of Planning
Sheaf Valley Cycle Route
We are writing again as a matter of urgency about Virgin Active. The manager of the VA premises has made it very clear to us that he will only talk and negotiate with the Council, which is why I am writing to you again today.
It has been brought to our attention today that someone, other than VA staff, has padlocked the internal gate at VA. I can assure you that this direct action is not on CycleSheffield’s part. CycleSheffield would internally authorise and publicly admit to any acts of direct action it took.
We did ask our members for a status report yesterday and all reports confirmed that the VA access gates on to Saxon Rd are left open everyday. It was also confirmed that the route through VA is being used as a thoroughfare or highway.
We have your own officers reporting somebody being knocked off her bike by VA ‘induced’ traffic. SYP were not involved because the person did not seek A&E help and, as far as we know, has not filed an incident report to complain about the driver. But we have evidence, and no doubt, that the gates being open is a hazard.
We repeat, it seems that SCC:
- need to discuss the situation with the CEO of VA , rather than the local manager;
- has a moral argument. VA has stuck to the spirit of the planning permission for over 10 years by ensuring that the internal gate was always closed. It has only recently been opened. So they have changed the use from previous custom and practice;
- may also have a legal argument. By opening the gates and allowing the traffic to use the car park as a thoroughfare by people other than their customers then VA has changed the use from solely a car park to also being a highway. We find it hard to believe that somebody can just change the use from that of a car park to highway without some kind of permission. It is not marked as a highway would be there are no Give Way signs etc – not that we want these but we want and need it closed.
We would expect our Council not to be craven and to use any means at its disposal to ensure that its intentions are upheld, i.e. the internal gate where the bollards would be is to remain shut unless it needs opening for service purposes.
We asked to be informed of progress by the next Cycle Forum. We think this matter is now urgent. We would like to be updated on current actions and progress with this situation as soon as possible