TAG Election Survey Results

As you may have seen on our Facebook page, TAG sent 133 letters to the candidates standing in tomorrow’s local elections asking them where they stand on recreational access to MoD land. The people elected tomorrow will have a significant voice in the forthcoming byelaw review that will determine how, when, and if, the public will be able to use the MoD lands. If you’ve not checked out the results of the TAG election survey – please have a look at our infographic and the individual results to see if your local candidates decided to reply, and what they said if they did.

election infographic_final.pngTAGAccessReportFinal20170901

Full candidate by candidate results can be found here https://tinyurl.com/tagsurveyresults

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TAG and MOD – Tentative Progress

Here at TAG we tend to to post many updates or announcements, unless we really have news or information to share. Truth is, we would rather be out riding our bikes and not stuck in front of a keyboard…

But we do have some news, and feel its a good time to share with the MTB community.

Last month representatives from Cycling UK, British Horse Society, Hampshire Access Forum and TAG were invited to a meeting with DIO. The primary purpose of the meeting was to discuss access routes across the military training lands, routes that would be suitable for both horses and cyclists alike and open for use at all times.

Now we all know a few permissive tracks across the land are not going to really reflect how MTB riders use the land, but TAG are going to support them and their use for the benefit of all. There is the potential for wider permissive access and right now we have no firm commitment to share, but given the positive mood of the meeting TAG feel there is an opportunity the like of which we have never seen before.

The meeting was an opportunity to discuss other matters, to explore ways of making life easier for both the troops who train and the likes of MTB who ride on the land. It will probably come as no surprise the kind of behaviour and issues that give DIO the most concern are:

  • Digging of jumps, step ups etc.
  • Night riding and disturbing troops.

Both matters consumed around 40 minutes of the meeting, preventing us from moving onto more positive matters. TAG do understand the concerns raised.

Any digging activity ends up with two outcomes: The construction will be flattened and DIO will break off future meetings. This one is easy to fix: If you dig and build, now is the time to pause and put the shovel down.

For the record: There is a possible opportunity that an area will be set aside where digging and building will be permitted. To that end, if you dig and want to have a say in a possible location then please get in touch with TAG.

Night riding is another concern, but trickier to resolve. TAG have made it clear that communication is going to be the key here. We are convinced the MTB community will gladly change a planned ride route if its known troops are out at night. Our recent experience of the film crew at Eelmoor has given us confidence, and for those who change their route we say “Thank you for your support”. For now, do please remember the TAG code of conduct while we see if progress cannot be made on on letting the public know where and when land is in use.

After five years of disengagement with the MTB community DIO now recognise there is mutual benefit in talking to TAG and we really welcome and appreciate the shift in policy. We are at the beginning of a long journey and things will take time, but TAG do feel we are heading in a very positive direction that will benefit all.

The Countdown Begins

As an advocacy group for mountain biking across the Military Lands, TAG has a simple goal: To ensure cyclists have the right to use the lands for responsible recreation when said lands are not in use by the military.

This can be achieved in two ways: By the Commanding Officer granting such permission, or by a review of the Byelaw.

TAG have been given notice by Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO) that the timeline is now in place for the Aldershot and District Military Lands Byelaws for the following areas:

  • Aldershot Long Valley
  • Aldershot Garrison
  • Hawley, Minley and Camberley
  • Pirbright Camp, Ash Ranges and Bisley Ranges.

All remaining areas of military land in the area will be subject to a separate byelaw, and work will commence on that area as soon as the new byelaws have been made.

DIO will be drafting the new laws before putting them out for public consultation. From the documents supplied there is no indication if interested parties and stakeholders will have any say on what the byelaws actually say before the public get their chance to raise objections.

Public consultation is scheduled to begin in June 2019 and the new byelaw is expected to be signed into law by February 2020.

This is an opportunity for the community to ensure the lands remain open to everyone when training is not underway. It is likely the byelaws governing the lands will not be reviewed for another 40 years so it is vital they maintain, enhance and reflect exactly how the public wish to use them.

Other military land byelaws have been reviewed and cycling has become a permitted form of recreation. This is within MOD’s own guidelines. TAG expect nothing less than full access for cyclists in the Aldershot and Longmoor areas too.

We shall be preparing a full response in due course, but in the meantime it is vital that we have as much support as possible from local MPs and councillors, who can bring influence and pressure on DIO to finally recognise their own guidance and policy documents. It is therefore vital we have representation that is supportive to the cycling community. TAG will be seeking and publishing the views of every candidate on this subject in the forthcoming local elections.

Remember, this is close to once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to set the laws fairly for all. We have much to gain.

TAG MTB Survey – The Results

Firstly, on behalf of Trail Action Group, I would like to say a huge “Thank you” to everyone who took the time to respond to the recent survey. We all think it is vitally important that the Aldershot and District lands are recognised for the immense value they bring to the local cycling community and the results now allow everyone to quantify and understand the deep feelings we all hold for the land, and the respect for those who work and train there.

At 60 pages the report is quite long, so if this feels  little daunting we would recommend the Summary and Appendix 8.3 are worthy of reading in full.

Appendix 8.3 contains the summary of where we gave the chance for mountain bikers to explain why accessing the land was important. This section was written by the respondents, in their own words. The responses do not provide any hard data or facts, but does convey the emotive passion, the joy and pleasure that the lands bring to our lives. Reading them is a real delight and its heartwarming to find that so many share a common, respectful view and understand the benefits access brings.

Finally, TAG would like to thank the cyclists and unicyclist who posed for the images that illustrate the report.

The full report is in PDF format and may be dowloaded here:

TAGAccessReportFinal20170901

Survey Time – Do you ride on the military lands?

TAG are seeking some background information from the MTB community that rides on the military lands. If you ride in the following places, we would like to hear from you:-

  • Minley Manor & Yateley Heath
  • Pystock and Fleet Pond surrounds.
  • Long Valley
  • Caesars Camp and Beacon Hill
  • Ash Ranges
  • Tunnel Hill
  • Porridge Pot & Windmill Hill
  • Bagshot Heath north and south
  • Barrossa Common
  • Hankley Common
  • Longmoor Ranges

The survey can be found here:-

TAG MTB Survey

We would really appreciate your responses. No one is compelled to give their name, email address etc, but we may need to follow up with some respondents to clarify some of the answers, so an email address and permission to contact you would be just perfect. It kind of goes without saying that we will not be sharing your personal details with anyone else…but that information will remain confidential.

The survey should not take too long – thanks in advance for your time. It is appreciated and will be useful in our ongoing discussions with the landowner.

Public Meeting 8pm Wed 17th September St. John’s Hall, Cove

PUBLIC MEETING: As you may be aware it’s recently become apparent that recreational cycling access to the local MoD lands is under threat. The Trail Action Group (TAG) are holding a public meeting on the 17th September to discuss responsible use of this land and what local cyclists’ next steps should be. Please attend and let your voice be heard!

Where: St John’s Hall, 14 St John’s Road, Cove, Farnborough, GU14 9RQ
When: Wed 17th September 8pm for prompt 8:15pm start

Church Crookham Meeting

It was good to see so many passionate mtbers at the meeting in Church Crookham with the Army last night, whilst the atmosphere did get a little spikey at one point, lots of moderate voices were head and I hope it will act as a wakeup call to the powers that be at the MoD and they will now engage with MTB groups such as TAG.

My main takeaways from the meeting were:

  • The MoD have had legal advice that if they’re ever asked they must reply “cycling off metalled tracks is illegal under the 1976 byelaws and the definition of a metalled track is a tarmac road such as Bourley Road”
  • Whilst they have to repeat the party line, they did say they would be enforcing it by requesting riders to move on. If the rider was disruptive “again and again” then a ‘warning off notice’ would be issued, if it happened again, another ‘warning off notice’ would be issued but it’d be up to the police to do anything more (they share the notices with the police)
  • The primary objective of the meeting from the MoD point of view was to warn the local population about increased use by troops following the return of guys from Germany (27k in total, presumably not all coming to Aldershot) and more importantly there will be several new battalions in the locale who will have very large military vehicles
  • They were particularly worried that their trainee drivers would be driving badly in 29 ton Mastiff vehicles with poor visibility and flatten a cyclist / dog walker
  • The main impacted area will be the driving training area in Long Valley that is likely to see improved fences etc and enforcement (to be honest this area isn’t that great for MTBing)
  • The Army are restricted as to which areas they can use as they’ve given a fair amount up to developers as ‘SANGS’ (when they build houses they have to provide green space proportionate to the residents) and they can’t use the red flag areas if shooting is going on
  • There is a consultation on the byelaws that will happen in due course but they couldn’t tell us when or the route by which our views can be made known
  • They are considering ideas about how they manage public access – zoning was mentioned. They will appreciate they will need to consult on these following last night.
  • Whatever they think about mtbers it’s nothing compared with how much they dislike dog poo!
  • 140 mtbers turning up made an impression (some good some bad!) on the MoD and they’re probably puzzling about how they deal with the issue

TAG has got the Lt Col.’s email address and we’ll be trying to engage him directly about a way forward (if nothing else to show him some singletrack so he knows what he is dealing with). We’ll obviously keep everyone informed and we’d welcome hearing from anyone who wants to be engaged.

Finally I’d like to ask all local riders to read the Code of Conduct that is on the TAG website – if we all follow this we will be able to reduce conflict to a minimum and hopefully avoid draconian measures.

Ewan (TAG Chair)

www.trailactiongroup.co.uk

https://www.facebook.com/trailactiongroup