The next step was to organise a “Stake holders” meeting, ostensibly as a public consultation about 32 proposals. Reasonable enough you might think, until you looked a little closer.
The maps were basically the same maps that we had been shown in November 2008 with a couple of very minor alterations. There were still mountain bike trails marked all over the Moor and many of them were still in environmentally sensitive areas. So much for all the public consultations. This was still the same plan with just a little window dressing for effect.
The responses were limited to five bands ranging from “I am really enthusiastic about this proposal” to “I am really concerned about this proposal.” Being “really concerned” turned out to mean “We’ll talk about it a bit more and then ask you to change your vote.” The middle position was already defined as being in favour so there was also an automatic bias introduced here. Does any of this seem even handed to you? It does to Mr Vink.
“There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.” Attributed to Disraeli by Mark Twain.
When Pathways presented the results of a survey of 514 users of the Moor, 365 of which said leave the Moor basically as it is, it didn’t take much of a genius to see that the overwelming majority of people did not want Crompton Moor turned into a Mountain Bike Park. You would need to be quite ingenious then, to turn this into an overwhelming endorsement of Mr Vink’s plans. Well this is how he went about it.
First of all he ran a separate survey in a tent next to a mountain bike club’s display, on a rainy day while most people were busy filling in the Pathways Survey. He then continued that survey in a corner of the local library where people assumed it was the survey they had already filled in.
This survey of just 41 people is then used to say that 61% of people asked were in favour of the plans. Does this seem even remotely honest to you? It does to Mr Vink.
The makeup of the “public” was quite interesting too, there were of course a number of councillors and a mix of different interest groups that I recognised, but also a number of people I didn’t know. I made a point of talking to a few of them and they turned out to council employees. Not too surprising until we noticed they were all casting votes as well. Anything seem odd about bringing in council employees to vote on proposals put forward by their own council? It doesn’t to Mr Vink.
Regrettably, the combined effect of these inequities was the final straw for many people and a large number of people walked out at half time when it became clear that their opinion was just going to be picked over until the council got exactly the result it wanted.
Of the 32 proposals, only one, to “Develop and manage sustainable mountain bike routes,” resulted in significant opposition but even this was reduced to just a patronising smiley/unhappy face in the final action plan.
A mountain bike trail and a pump track have already been built using sandstone grit in the area of reclaimed spoil heaps next to the car park. We are told that in time the “yellow brick road” will start to blend in but I cannot see it happening any time soon. In the process the footpaths were churned into a slippery morass while rubble has been dumped in the quarry and over the side of the gully. It is no surprise that people think it is acceptable to fly tip here when the councils own contractors treat the place with such disdain. The only oversight seemed to be the presence of Mark McClure, one of the mountain bikers, that was about as much use as putting a fox in charge of a hen house.
An event was organised to replant some of the heather that was damaged during this building and while many of the “Friends” turned out, the only cyclist to lend a hand was Michael Ely, their representative on the CMUG committee. Were any of us surprised? Not in the slightest; so much for the mountain bikers being responsible enough to maintain the tracks then.
The final kick in the teeth came at the last CMUG committee meeting when Mr Vink then proceeded to say that there was nothing “illegal” about the trails built in the Great Meadow plantation. So does this mean that it is not illegal to chop down trees and destroy dry stone walls to build them then? I believe it’s normally referred to as “Criminal Damage,” unless of course you run surveys for the council in which case you describe it as “Creativity.”
An excerpt from the council’s own notice regarding access to the moor under the Countryside Rights of Way Act 2000 says that “Cycling, horse riding, driving a vehicle and camping are not allowed (apart from where a right to do this already exists e.g. along a bridleway).” the trail through Great Meadow plantation is not a bridleway so that makes it illegal to build and illegal to use then. Even a notice put up by North West Riders acknowledges that the trails are illegal. The only person that seems to be in any doubt about it seems to be Mr Vink. Which part of that does he not understand?
The only conclusion I can draw is that this is all part of a process to legitimise these illegal trails. So what happened to the promise that they would be removed when the bikers had an official trail?
Like so many things, no doubt Mr Vink will “refute” that he ever said such a thing. He has “refuted” so many inconvenient statements that he has already earned the nickname ”Refute Vink” amongst many of the people that long since stopped believing a single word that he says.
Almost two years of pointless meetings where we were all encouraged to think that we actually had a say in what was going to happen. The reality all along was that Mr Vink was just going to do exactly what he wanted anyway. It’s a shame he couldn’t have grown a spine and told us that was how it was going to work in the very beginning. It would have saved us all a great deal of wasted time.
Of course, you do have to consider about how honestly this was all achieved, especially when public money has been involved. It seems to me that an employee of our council which is elected to represent our common interests, has pushed his own plans through all objections for reasons we can only wonder about. How much money and public resources has this all cost? At a time when our council is looking into a financial black hole with cuts and redundancies seeming inevitable, we can only hope that the axe falls in the right place for a change.
The “Yellow Brick Road.” Sandstone grit brought in to make the trail.
Footpaths turned to mud and heather needlessly destroyed during the building of the ”Yellow Brick Road.”
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