Next Wednesday a full council meeting will decide whether to adopt new byelaws for Pleasure Grounds, Public Walk and Open Spaces. This sounds like a very dry piece of council business but will have the potential to be extremely controversial.
The new byelaws, in their proposed form, will potentially allow cycling for the first time in our parks.
The proposals for a cycle route to pass through Alexandra Park stem back to a Cabinet meeting in January 2016, where the idea was approved by the Labour administration.
East Sussex County Council agreed to fund the project out of a pot of money from the Government's Local Growth Fund which was set up to pay for measures to improve conditions for those walking, cycling and using public transport.
The only way to enable this to happen was for Hastings Borough Council to change the byelaws in our parks. The old byelaws were due to be updated but the proposed update will have some very divisive consequences.
Part 14 of the proposed new byelaw state, “no person shall without reasonable excuse ride a cycle in the ground except in any part of the ground where there is a right of way for cycles or on a designated route for cycling.”
Presently there are no designated cycle paths in any of our parks and open spaces. Therefore, the council argue, changing the byelaws does not necessarily give the go-ahead to a cycle path through the park.
But this is very much a chicken and egg situation. If you don’t change the byelaws, you can’t have a cycle route. You can’t disassociate the new byelaws from the cycle path. Even the Council website states: “construction of the cycle path is scheduled to start in winter 2022-23.”
Consequently, a change in the byelaws mean that because of the decision taken in 2016 the Labour administration could introduce the cycle path immediately and without any further consultation.
Even more alarming is the poorly worded paragraph in the new byelaws which state: “Outside the designated areas, no person shall cycle on any footway or carriageway in such a manner as to cause danger or give reasonable grounds for annoyance to other persons using the footway or carriageway.”
So legally you could argue that inside the designated area for cycling you CAN ride in “a manner as to cause danger or give reasonable grounds for annoyance to other persons”!
At the recent local elections, a number of candidates opposed the cycle route through Alexandra Park, notably the Labour councillor for St Helens ward. If councillors vote to amend the byelaws, they will be voting to allow cycling through the park, you cannot spin it any other way.