Brothers Josh Boyle and Mark Maitland, and their friend Gareth Reece, plan to create a cycle cafe and retail hub in front of the Grade-II listed Watch House at Spanish Battery in Tynemouth. This is one of the end-points for the 140-mile C2C (Sea to Sea) Ride which Sustrans says is the "UK’s most popular challenge cycle route." It is also the start point for Sustrans’ Reivers Route and the Coast and Castles Route as well as a number of coast to coast charity rides.
Plans for the Watch House Garden were approved in principle last year by North Tyneside Council, and the business will soon be applying for for full planning-permission.
The proposed development includes a bike shop, function room, changing and shower facilities, secure cycle parking, and, of course, the all-important cake-and-coffee refuelling zone.
Mark Maitland owns the land where the centre could be built. The former army helicoptor pilot trainer is from Tynemouth and is currently a flying instructor in the United Arab Emirates. His brother is an electrical engineer and director of a Tyneside electrical contracting firm. Reece also has a military background (he was a helicoptor pilot in the Army Air Corps, leaving with the rank of major) and is also based in the UAE, where he is an aviation consultant. Reece plans to return to the UK to help run the new business.
The C2C was opened in 1994 and starts in either Whitehaven or Workington, and ends in either Sunderland or Tynemouth.
Along with then-Sustrans CEO John Grimshaw the route was created by David Gray, now principal of adventure touring company Chain Events (which organises events on the C2C). He told BikeBiz that a full-on finishing point for the C2C was "long overdue."
"The current finish at Tynemouth – a car park with a totem pole at the end – can be somewhat underwhelming. This would be a fitting end to a challenging ride, or a great start to one of the other rides that leave from that point. It would do nothing but good for the area, and is long overdue."
However, local resident Sandy Kerr, a member of the Spanish Battery Association, is "trying to put a stop to the proposed plans to turn the land in front of the Tynemouth Watch House into a Cafe & Cycle Hub" and has created an online petition against the creation of the Watch House Garden. This has so far received 1400 signatures.
Reece countered by saying "the project would link into wider plans for the area in terms of re-generation and would promote sustainable transport."
A full planning-permission application will be made in March. "We are currently completing wintering bird surveys to conform with ecology and biodiversity requirements," Reece told BikeBiz.
If given the go-ahead he hopes the Watch House Garden can become an essential meeting-point for local and visiting cyclists. "We also have an option to incorporate a fitness studio to focus on cycle training, diet and nutrition," said Reece.
The team also want to start a new triathlon centred on Tynemouth which would "showcase the region, its people and promote our fabulous coastline," said Reece.
"We are replacing a disused private garden with a manicured garden open to the public. There will be no structure in front of the Watch House with a vertical extent greater than 1.2m. There will be no change to the residents’ views."
He added: "We are simply three local guys who want to make a viable business to support our families."