Newbold Comyn masterplan - project facts and information
Newbold Comyn site
1 - Newbold Comyn is around 120 hectares (300 acres). It is owned by Warwick District Council and open to the community on an open informal basis. This means that a wide range of outdoor, sport and recreation activities have long been accommodated on the site.
Football pitches, Newbold Comyn Leisure Centre and the Newbold Comyn Arms pub are all on the site, whilst the rest of the area offers open informal access, dedicated play areas and dedicated nature areas.
Visitors are welcomed to the park on the basis that they respect each another in line with any legislation that applies in other public areas, alongside any specific requirements of the land owners at specific times.
2 - Newbold Comyn falls within the Green Belt as set out in the Warwick District Council Local Plan (2011-2029). In addition, the Local Plan policy HS5 applies to the site – Directing Open Space, Sport and Recreation Facilities.
There are no scheduled monuments or designated habitat areas on the site. Newbold Comyn Arms is a Grade II listed building. Sustrans national routes link into the site in two places.
There are small parts of Public Rights of Way linking on to the site.
3 - Man’s involvement in shaping the landscape of Newbold Comyn dates back to prehistoric times. There are likely to have been Roman settlements here and evidence shows that it has been farmed and quarried since medieval times.
Newbold Comyn is not ‘common’ land. Having passed from the Comyn family, the area was owned by the monks of Stoneleigh Abbey. More recently in the twentieth century, it was part of the Newbold Comyn Estate.
The site was acquired by the Council in the 1940s. In the 1970s, a golf course was established there until it closed in December 2017.
Newbold Comyn - the future
4 - When the golf course closed, the Council had to decide the future use of Newbold Comyn for the benefit of the local community. The decision had to be set against a context of changing demands for the open space, particularly when adding the Covid pandemic’s impact on people’s behaviours in outdoor spaces.
It also has to take into account and support the multiple activities and interests which have always taken place at Newbold Comyn. These include:
- nature watching and volunteering in nature
- horse riding
- flying model aircraft
- visiting the leisure centre and pub
- playing in children’s play grounds
- one off events e.g. parkrun, fair
To balance these varied enjoyments of the park, it was decided to create a masterplan covering the whole of Newbold Comyn. This masterplan is a “statement of intent” and policy direction for the future shape of the park; essentially a blueprint.
From the agreed blueprint, each individual element needs to be worked up in further detail, the necessary formal approvals gained, technical assessments completed and appropriate funding sought in order for it to be realised.
Newbold Comyn project timeline
Newbold Comyn masterplan
6 - The first step in agreeing a masterplan for the park was to ask people what they wanted. In March 2018 the Council agreed to conduct an options appraisal for the site’s future including through consultation with the public.
Three separate consultations were held for the community.
The first simply asked people what they might like to see and how they would like to enjoy the area. It also surveyed what happened at that time on the site.
Based on the results from this, the Council worked with sports and leisure experts to draw up a draft masterplan, bringing in nationwide experience to the thinking for the site.
A second consultation in September 2019 offered some ideas of how the masterplan might look and asked for feedback.
A third consultation on the final draft was held just as the first lockdown of the Covid pandemic came into force. This was held virtually but received a similar number of responses to the second consultation that had been offered in a variety of ways. In November 2020, the Council agreed the masterplan following final amendments relating to the third consultation.
From the third consultation, the top three requests for Newbold Comyn (i.e. people “strongly supported” or “tended to support”) were:
- nature trails (these already exist on site and more are planned for)
- extension to the nature reserve (this is part of the planning for the request above)
- cycle trails (currently being completed)
Implementing the masterplan
7 - Based on the decisions made by the Council Executive, work started on the cycle trails first. Substantial grant funding was available and awarded to the Council in support of creating the trails and they were therefore brought forward as the first part of the masterplan delivery.
The information below will be updated in the order that the projects are developed.
Cycling facilities implementation
Planning for facilities – feasibility and ethos
8 - Newbold Comyn has been and will always be a shared use park for all to enjoy. This means that the cycling trails have been planned as free to use and allowing for accessibility for all. Neither cycling nor any other activity on site, including walking will be restricted at Newbold Comyn (with the exception of some specific areas where habitats and wildlife may need additional protection at certain times of the year and for safety during one-off events).
No single activity is given priority in the park. This has meant that safety features have been designed into the facility from the outset.
9 - The masterplan included skeleton ideas for cycle trails to extend around the whole of Newbold Comyn (around 11km of trails), impacting the perimeter path throughout and all areas of the site.
Revised proposals reduced the area of trails to around 4.5km and focused them in an area to the north western side of Newbold Comyn where cyclists are most likely to stay. This is around a third of the park, leaving the other two thirds without dedicated cycling trails and enhancing the opportunity for other types of leisure activity.
10 - The Council has worked with expert cycling teams from British Cycling and within the trails construction sector that are familiar with mixed use sites to establish a design concept that creates an offer of healthy activity, and encourages families and other beginners to take part in a range of different cycle sports. These include mountain biking, cyclocross, 4X, BMX and road cycling.
Much of this activity has been happening at Newbold Comyn previously. The dedicated facilities offer a way for people to learn and stay fit in a safe environment and in a more directed way around other park users.
The specified standards of trails and their maintenance will support learning and safety. The design for Newbold Comyn acknowledges that there are regional destinations away from this facility - which is provided for a local audience – that offer more challenging and exciting participation in cycling. This leaves Newbold Comyn to continue to be enjoyed by its surrounding communities.
Content of the cycling facilities
11 - The facilities comprise:
- Green trails (beginners and accessibility for all)
- Blue trails (intermediate)
- Red trails (small lengths of higher grades for progression)
- Cycle hub (a building housing cycle hire, minor repairs, refreshments and toilets)
- Cycle hub terrace (area outside the hub overlooking the Learn to Ride area)
- Learn to Ride area (contained area adjacent to the hub where safe learning can take place)
- Progressive jumps area (within the curtilage of the trails)
- Dual track (mown grassy area for racing side by side – principally in the summer or at dry times)
- Refurbishment of the existing BMX area at Campion Hills allowing for 4X riding
Funding the facilities
12 - In addition to funding from the Community Infrastructure levy (CIL) and Council resources, an award of £423,000 has been made by the Places to Ride grant scheme towards its development and delivery.
A separate contract has been drawn up with Sport England to ensure appropriate delivery of the project.
Context for realising cycle facilities plans
13 - In finalising the technical proposals for delivering the trails, the Council has had to consider and resolve the issues outlined below. Balancing them together has taken considerable coordination across a range of technical advisers.
Physical site conditions
- landscape and views
- site heritage and archaeology
- trail standards
- rider safety
- accessibility for all
- other site users’ safety
- listed building status
Landscape and views
13A - The trails have been designed to follow the shape of the existing landscape inherited from the golf course. Wider views from the higher part of the site will be kept as they are. The made-up trails have been created as an addition to the landscape.
However, all banks and berms have been created using seeded soil materials, ensuring quick greening up around the newly built areas. As the trails weather, they will quickly blend in with the park and appear much less visible than at first.
13B - Historical surveys of the site identified, in particular, ridge and furrow within the area identified for trails. Designs had to be altered to construct the trails differently, ensuring future protection of these features.
In addition, original plans were altered to avoid these features where they are mainly located.
13C - Some ecological matters fall under a range of legislation that means the Council is unable to share all relevant information. This ensures protection of the environment.
Detailed wildlife and habitat surveys were undertaken prior to an initial detailed design of the trails being considered. Very close to the start of construction, further surveys were carried out to ensure the most recent information was available.
Wildlife and nature, by their very character are continuously changing. This has meant that some leeway was accepted in the lines of route. It was also anticipated that this aspect of the work could also force change on the ground, once construction commenced.
Planting between the trails will be established that will improve the relatively low ecological value inherited from the golfing operation and also to enrich the area; for example, new ponds are planned. Once established, the planting will enhance the appearance of the park and further soften the initial impact of the trails.
13D - Trees were surveyed prior to finalising the design. Some of the trees inherited from the golf course operation had not been actively managed and were due maintenance. The proposed routes were revised to allow the retention of trees and hedge lines.
Trail standards and rider safety
13E - It is important that the trails are built to recognised standards, particularly as they are aimed at learning and will need to be maintained at the same standard as they come into operation. This is particularly the case to continue to allow accessible riding for all abilities. The “on paper” design has been created by specialist contractors.
The Council has also liaised with British Cycling throughout on the technical aspects of the trails. The appointed contractors were trained to ride trails appropriately and test them as they are built.
A build typically entails constructing a stretch of route, riding it to confirm its suitability for the allotted standard of the trail and amending to suit any unforeseen ground conditions.
Site users' safety
13F - The design of the trails has much incorporated within it to accommodate safety. It has taken into account existing use of the park. This means that routing has aimed to avoid obvious tracks where walkers currently go.
The experienced constructors have designed in “pinch points” to ensure that cyclists are automatically slowed down at regular crossing points.
Sight lines for pedestrians and cyclists have been accounted for by design of the planting around the trails and these are longer at crossing points. The planting scheme has been created with practical benefits in mind.
Shrubs and lower-lying plants will be established as soon as possible to ensure riders do not injure themselves but will also provide a natural barrier between differing users’ activities.
In this way, planting can help allow continued access for where cyclists and walkers will naturally go and separate the activities being enjoyed.
13G - The building identified for the hub is Grade II listed. It requires special attention to retain its historic character. Plans include returning it more to its previous outlook but also to ensure that climate friendly provision is made within its services and future-proof its use.
Since it has been unused following the closure of the golf course, its revival should ensure its integrity is sustained in years to come.
Accessibility for all
13H - The trails have been designed to be used one-way only. This is clearly marked around the site in accordance with British Cycling standards. The one-way system will allow for differing types of bikes to be used on the trails, including access on the green trails for people with differing abilities and types of cycles.
In addition, large information boards offering safety and other information are being finalised and will be installed soon.
13I - The site’s hydrology has been surveyed prior to the construction. The existing site has often been very wet in places. This may have been due to no apparent drainage systems having been used by the golf course. The trails incorporate provision for drainage to avoid run-off water pooling around the site.
Implementing plans for the cycling facilities
14 - An application for the proposed facilities (W/21/0256) was made on 10 February 2021 for the "redevelopment of existing disused golf course to create cycle tracks designed for all ages and capabilities together with alterations to existing old golf shop and clubhouse to create cycling hub together with external landscaping works." The planning decision was issued on 28 May 2021 and includes 18 conditions relating to implementation of the plans.
Thirteen conditions needed to be resolved and approved by the Planning Authority prior to the start of construction on site. They included the preparation of a LEMP (landscape and ecological management plan), tree mitigation and protection plan, CEMP (construction and environmental plan), landscaping scheme, schemes for the management of archaeology, approval of historic building materials, additional wildlife surveys and detailed plans for the progressive jumps area.
In agreeing these plans with the Planning Authority, the Council has been required to have retained specialists to have a watching brief on the site throughout construction to advise and direct work as on the ground conditions impact the project’s progress. These include an arboriculturist, archaeologist and ecologist. In addition, a technical expert from British Cycling has advised in relation to the build of the trails themselves.
15 - Work to build the facilities began on 10 October 2022. Considerations on the site for completing the build have included:
- the aim to keep as much of the site safely open for continued public use
- accommodating two separate sets of contractors on site simultaneously to work on the hub and trails
- maintaining a compound for machinery and materials close to the working area
- weather conditions, including very high levels of rainfall in November 2022, necessitating changes to on-site working methods
- public disruption of the site, including removal of safety and information signage, tampering with fencing and ignoring guidance to stay safe
16 - As with many construction projects, the on the ground conditions have required a review of the “on paper” plans as the build has evolved in reality. This has resulted in numerous alterations being required as the build has developed.
Reasons for necessary changes have varied, including some issues that are not immediately visible to see. They have included:
- avoidance of wildlife/habitats
- site users’ safety and trail standards
- avoidance of existing walkers’ trails
Each of these changes has been informed by the retained technical advisers. Detailed records are being collated and formally mapped. The Council has maintained contact with the Planning Authority at all times.
A retrospective application for variations to the original plan has been submitted to the Planning Authority and is currently being considered. At the same time, submissions have been made to discharge the outstanding planning conditions.
Operating the cycling facilities
17 - Operators will be invited to bid for the operation of the facilities, including the hub. The trails are free to use and open access is available on site, once initial safety checks and other statutory checks have been cleared. There may be one-off events that interrupt this open access.
As part of the agreement of the planning conditions, formal access and safety plans are being finalised for the site. These will be kept under review by the appointed operator. The operator’s tasks will include on-site supervision, monitoring of the trails conditions and their safety, as well as liaison with stakeholders. Existing on-site security arrangements will support these activities.
The operational arrangements and their suitability will be kept under review in the early access to the trails and revised, as necessary.
Overall, the ethos for the Newbold Comyn cycling facilities is the same as the previous use of the site – all leisure activities are welcome. Informal observation prior to the finalisation of project plans suggests that the majority of people enjoying the park act within the Council’s desired principles of courteousness and sharing of Newbold Comyn.
The Council, as the owner of the site, has an expectation that respect and courtesy is an acceptable behaviour of all visitors throughout their stay in the park, regardless of their activity there. It will manage the site to achieve this.
The addition of dedicated cycling facilities supports appropriate cycling behaviours and learning.
18 - To emphasise appropriate behaviour on site, the Council will be publishing further advice around all the activities and as the owner of Newbold Comyn would expect that visitors follow a simple code of conduct to:
Be considerate: everyone has an equal part to play in ensuring safety in the park. Everyone comes to enjoy their time at Newbold Comyn whether it is to relax, explore or exercise.
Be safe: follow signage. It may change, particularly when referring to seasonal considerations for wildlife or maintenance taking place. Children and dogs may need to be kept close to you in some areas.
Be seen and heard: not everyone has perfect sight or hearing or even vision behind them!
Be polite: all our visitors, no matter the activity they undertake at Newbold Comyn, visit for the same reason – to enjoy this special, valued green space.