The teen sponsored BMX and skate project facing another major challenge


One teenager who has tried creating an outdoor track for BMX riders and skateboarders for three years said he was frustrated with the negative response from the Swansea Council’s planning department to the proposal.

Jake Gates and two friends, Elliott Wadley and Jed Wood, have been conducting surveys, knocking on doors, collecting donations and trying to get so much support for the project since October 2018.

“It’s a great feeling when adults listen to you,” said Jake, 15, of Bishopston, Gower. “The whole idea is to get people out and off their screens.”

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Efforts by the Bishopston Skatepark Project and its supporters included skateboarding sessions for elementary school students, a sponsored 24-hour trampoline challenge, and a presentation to the Bishopston Community Council.

They spoke to their local police officer, the National Lottery, a BMX track designer, and an ecologist and historian about the location on Mansel Green, Murton, which was chosen as the best location for the free track.

Jake said the original idea was to build a skate park, but consultation revealed that a pump track was preferred – an undulating asphalt stretch for BMX riders, but also for skateboarders and scooter riders.

Image of the planned pump track at Mansel Green, Murton

He said the local council was involved in the project and that permission to use the Mansel Green area in question was given by the Gower Commoners Association.

Swansea Council, he said, had provided nearly £ 5,000 in grants for things like design and planning costs, while Town Councilor Lyndon Jones was very supportive.

In May, Jake’s mother submitted a pre-application request to the city council for a 684 m² pump track on Mansel Green with additional documents. This included a letter from the local council that, together with the Bishopston Skatepark Project, wants to add nature trails and upgrade the area around the planned pump track.

But council planners said open-country recreation proposals like Mansel Green are only allowed if they are economically viable, help improve tourism, and cannot be within or adjacent to an existing settlement. Access and the impact on residents were also important considerations.

Officials said the pumptrack would bring no economic benefit and that the land across the street, on the Murton Green playing fields, was viewed as a better location and was within a defined settlement boundary.

The man-made bumps in the pump track would, they added, “change the heathery feel of the site significantly,” with trash cans and seating making the problem worse.

Officials said they had been advised that there was “significant concern” about the proposed location but added that local residents – from whom the closest would be 130 meters away – would not be affected.

Jake Gates (left), Elliott Wadley and Jed Wood (right), pictured in September 2020

Jake said he was disappointed, especially given the support from other departments in the council. He also said he had been advised that the answer would come in three weeks instead of 15 weeks. The planning officers apologized for the delay.

When asked if there was any opposition to the proposal, Jake said people had asked questions about it but changed their minds and came to support it.

“It’s a shame the design department has given so much negative feedback, but we’ll really try to accommodate it,” he said.

“We will address any issues and concerns they have. We are already working on getting environmental studies.”

However, the Bishopston Comprehensive Student said that everything has been put on hold for the time being and he feared prolonged delays if surveys had to be conducted at certain times of the year.

He thanked everyone who donated to the project, which would cost £ 70,000 to £ 80,000 to build, and said he was determined to make it happen.

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Jake’s mother, Sally-Anne Gates, said he was persistent and always saw the positive side of things.

She added, “He’s not afraid of people saying ‘no’.”

Cllr Jones said he supported Jake, Elliott and Jed from the start.

“They didn’t have much support at first, but we’ve come a long way,” he said. “We did a survey that I personally paid for, and it got phenomenal feedback.

“Since then, the local council and citizens have also stepped on the boat. There is now a huge amount of support, and there is a need for it in the community.”

Cllr Jones said construction company Kier, which is working extensively on Bishopston, will help Jake and his supporters prepare a detailed building application.

He said the planners’ response was disappointing but added, “These issues need to be addressed now.”

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