Cycle Parking for Organisations


Transport for West Midlands in collaboration with “Park that bike” is launching a project to support the growth of cycle use in the West Midlands.

Voluntary sector groups, businesses, shops, offices, cafés, pubs, churches, dental practices and surgeries can get free cycle parking! Various designs of cycle stand are available.

The bike stands are free of charge but you are responsible for installing them on your own property (they will provide full instructions) in a location that Park That Bike has approved.

Cycle Parking for Organisations is supported by Park That Bike to help organisations across the West Midlands by providing them with free cycle parking.

The scheme is aimed at encouraging more cycling and people to use their bikes to get around by offering to deliver free bike racks to up to 100 businesses, health establishments and community organisations.


Good quality cycle parking reduces the likelihood of bikes being stolen or damaged and tells the world that your organisation is doing its bit to encourage cycling. To apply please complete this on-line form. Click below to find out about the free cycle parking that’s available in your area.

This initiative is run by ParkThatBike and supported by various local councils across the UK, including Transport for West Midlands.

How it works

On application, an organisation will be able to choose the type of cycle parking they think will suit their needs best. Organisations can apply for up to four cycle stands free of charge: Conventional bike racks, heart-shaped stands, wall-mounted rails, PlantLocks (a combined planter and bike rack) and free-standing “toast-racks” are available to choose from.

The experts at Park That Bike will be on hand to support with the best location for the parking while ensuring it is delivered on private land. Once that is approved, Park That Bike will send out the cycle parking.

Following which successful applicants will have 10 weeks to install the new parking. The first round of applications is open now and there is a limited number of units available. Submit an application and also find information on eligibility requirements.

There is more information and an online application form here.

City of Culture will Now Start in May 2021


Coventry’s year as UK City of Culture has been pushed back to start in May 2021, due to the coronavirus crisis. Starting in May instead of the beginning of the year will “allow a fuller programme of public events”, according to the organisation team.

“The current crisis has hit our city, our region and our sector hard,” the chief executive of Coventry 2021 said. The new start date will enable the maximum possible number of people to visit and take part, he added. Chief Executive Martin Sutherland said: “We are delighted that we will be able to have a year of celebration – a time when the city and country need it most – and that the dates are now set in stone.”

City of Culture will not start till May 2021 When the Coventry 2021 programme commences, a currently untitled event will see two theatre and events directors – Nigel Jamieson and Justine Themen devise and create alongside international artists and residents including local young people, families, schools, faith organisations, performers, choirs and sport and community groups.

Uniting residents to explore the values at the heart of the city, and their hopes for the future, citizens of the city will take part in hundreds of workshops to create music, performance and dance for the event and build structures across the city, culminating in a spectacle on a scale the city has never seen before. It will create a powerful and diverse story about the spirit and energy of Coventry and celebrate the voices of people from every ward in the city.

Chenine Bhathena, Creative Director of Coventry 2021, said: ‘Nigel Jamieson and Justine Themen are the perfect pairing to kick off our year in truly spectacular style. But they are only part of the team, and that’s where it gets really exciting. The event, which will be created over the coming months, will be truly made in Coventry.’

The programme will now run until May 2022 and will enable St. Mary’s Guildhall to be open for more of the City of Culture Year.

There is more on the City of Culture website.

Planned Changes to the Planning System

The Government has announced significant plans to change the planning system in the post-Covid era. The plan is a major effort to build more homes and get more people to own their own homes as well as giving a nod to protecting the rights of tenants and reducing homelessness. The anti-planning rhetoric of the Government is combined with some rather good changes that we are happy to see.

Below we outline the main changes planned and in some cases our attitude to them.

The key changes at a glance

Planning reforms

  • Introduce new permitted development rights for building upwards on existing buildings by summer 2020 – add up to two floors to your detached house – this is likely to result in quite unacceptable developments.
Maxing out on Permitted Development Rights.
  • Consult on potential permitted development rights to allow vacant buildings to be demolished and replaced with new homes without planning permission – an unnecessary change that will reduce the quality of the built environment with likely unintended consequences.
  • New support for community and self-build housing schemes, including support finding plots of land – a very minor element of the economy which will not make any significant impact on housing need. People who can afford to build their own home can afford to buy a pre-built home.
  • Support the Oxford-Cambridge arc by setting up a new spatial framework for the area, setting out where housing will be delivered up to 2050, and create four development corporations across the region (Bedford, St Neots/Sandy, Cambourne and Cambridge, which includes plans to explore the case for a New Town at Cambridge).
  • To accelerate new housing and infrastructure development. A helpful and sensible policy.
  • With early affect it will be permitted to convert vacant shops into residential units. It is claimed that this will help rescue our High Street. However the decision of the last Government to permit the conversion of offices to houses had some unexpected and unacceptable results, with the creation of the smallest housing units anywhere in Europe with conditions worse than the Victorian era. We had hoped that the lessons had been learned.
Will we get more of this if planning permission isn’t required?

Housing Delivery Test

  • Review the formula for calculating local housing need to encourage more building in urban areas
  • Require all local authorities to have an up-to-date local plan by 2023 or government will intervene
  • Continue with plans to raise the Housing Delivery Test threshold to 75% in November 2020. This is the test of whether housing demand is being met by local authorities. However local authorities are not the main provider of housing and we are not clear what will be done to address the problem of large private house builders holding onto huge land banks.
  • Reform the New Homes Bonus to ensure local authorities that build more homes have access to greater funding.

Planning departments

  • Implement new planning fee structure to better resource planning authorities and link funding to improved performance. If this leads to Planning Departments being properly funded, we support this. The lack of funding for enforcement of planning rues is deplorable.
  • Provide automatic rebates of fees when planning applications are successful at appeal.
  • Expand the use of zoning tools to support development that is aimed at simplifying the process of granting planning permission for residential and commercial property. This approach is loaded with dangers for the environment and local community. Planning is there to protect us from unacceptable development.
  • Make it clearer who owns land by requiring greater transparency on land options – we support this initiative. Any actions which address the excessive land banking by house builders is to be welcomed.
  • Support local authorities to use compulsory purchase orders by introducing statutory timescales for decisions and ending the automatic right to public inquiry – we support this.


  • Continue with the proposed First Homes scheme, which offers eligible first-time buyers new homes at prices discounted by a third.The last scheme resulted in housing providers increasing the price of housing by the exact amount of the grant provided – meaning that the Government was subsidising house builders rather than first time buyers. It will be interesting to see if this problem is solved.
  • Form partnerships with developers and local authorities to be the frontrunners for delivering the first wave of new homes – good idea!


  • Revise National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) to encourage good design and placemaking throughout the planning process – an excellent idea which we support.
This is why we need a design guide! 
  • Respond to the Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission and take forward recommendations calling for urban tree-planting and giving communities more influence over design – another great idea.
  • Implement a new National Design Code to allow residents of communities to have more influence over design. Allow local areas to produce their own design codes for new development – we support this approach.

Climate and sustainability

  • Review policy for building in areas at flood risk by assessing whether current NPPF protections are enough and whether further reform is needed – the development of housing in floor plains is a national disgrace. Hopefully this new approach will stop it for good!
This is  what you get when you build in areas subject to flooding
  • Introduce Future Homes Standard in 2025, which will require up to 80% lower carbon emissions for new homes – a welcome step but not sufficient and too late.
  • Create a new net zero carbon housing development in Toton in the East Midlands through a development corporation.

The Canley Kid who Became Premier

At the end of a quiet cul-de-sac just off Charter Avenue in Canley is a hidden away timber framed cottage, similar to many across Warwickshire. Its private land, but if you are feeling bold you might take a look around the corner at this little piece of international history.

Moat House Cottage, Canley

You might meet an Australian student from nearby Warwick University taking a similar peek at his country’s history. For this is Moat House Cottage which was the birth place of Sir Henry Parkes who became the five-time Premier of New South Wales and a chief proponent of the federation of the Australian colonies. He is still considered by many Australians to be the ‘Father of Federation’.

He was described in a recent biography as someone who “steered a fractious country to nationhood, championed women’s rights, established secular state education and set a standard for honest governance.”

Parkes was born on 27 May 1815 the youngest child of tenant farmer Thomas Parkes and his wife Martha. At that time Canley was not part of Coventry, but was part of the Stoneleigh Estate, owned by the Leigh family. For at least a century the Parkes family had been tenant farmers there, growing wheat, barley, and other arable crops.

Henry was baptised at Stoneleigh’s St Mary the Virgin Church on July 2, 1815, just a fortnight after the Battle of Waterloo.

Not long after Henry’s birth, however, his father Thomas took the decision to move the family to a larger farm on the estate, near present-day Gibbet Hill. Since the beginning of the Napoleonic Wars, Britain had been cut off from trade with much of Europe and consequently the price of food had soared. This, coupled with several years of drought sent crop prices ever higher – and Thomas Parkes saw his chance to cash in.

Henry and his six siblings grew up at the farm, and from there he would walk the two and a half miles to the village school in Stoneleigh.

When he was just eight years old, however, Henry’s formal education came to a sudden halt. The Parkes’ rental was quadrupled to reflect the increase in the price of wheat, but when the wars were over and crop prices fell dramatically, rental costs on the estate did not. When, in 1822, Henry’s father Thomas was incapacitated by an accident which left him on crutches, he was even less able to run his farm at a profit and a year later, in 1823, Thomas Parkes was removed from his farm, heavily in debt.

There followed a terrible time for the family, and by the age of 11 Henry was working in a rope factory for 4 pence a day and later in a brickyard in a rock-breaking gang. Aged 12 he was apprenticed to a bone and ivory turner, John Holding of Moseley Street in Birmingham, and made products such as knife handles, hair combs and toys.

Henry Parkes was a self-educated man, reading extensively and joining the Birmingham Mechanics’ Institute. By the age of 16 he was fired by an enthusiasm for radical politics, the Chartist Movement then being at its height. Between 1832 and 1838 he was associated with the political movements that aimed to improve living and working conditions for the working classes.

The young Henry Parkes

He also developed an interest in poetry and in 1835 he wrote poems addressed to Clarinda Varney, the daughter of a local butcher. On 11 July 1836 he married Clarinda and went to live in a single room home. Parkes commenced business on his own account in Birmingham and had a bitter struggle to make ends meet.

Henry and Clarinda lost two children at an early age and after a few unsuccessful weeks living in London, Parkes and his wife emigrated to New South Wales in 1839 on assisted passage. Their first surviving child was born on board just before arrival.

They arrived at Sydney on 25 July 1839. On arrival they had only a few shillings between them and had to sell their belongings as Parkes looked for work. He was eventually employed as a labourer with John Jamison, one of the colony’s wealthiest settlers, on the Regentville estate near Penrith. He was paid with £25 a year and food rations. After spending six months at Regentville, he returned to Sydney and worked in various low-paying jobs, first with an ironmongery store and then with a firm of engineers and brass-founders.

During Parkes’ early years in Australia, he took an interest in political issues. Most notably, he joined the growing movement in the colony for self-governance. This was already a major political issue; the New South Wales Legislative Council had been reformed in 1843 to include elected members for the first time. He also became an opponent of the transportation of convicts to Australia and a supporter of land reform and universal suffrage.

In December 1850, Parkes founded the Empire newspaper. At first a broadsheet only published weekly, it soon became a daily.

In 1854 Parkes was elected as representative of the City of Sydney on the New South Wales Legislative Council. Parkes in his election speeches had advocated the extension of the power of the people, increased facilities for education and a bold railway policy.

Over the coming decades Parkes grew in political power. He led his first Parliament in 1872 and went on to be premier on five occasions. In later years he placed much of his time into the creation of the Australian Federation, convening the first conference in 1890. The Federation came about in 1901, five years after his death.

Sir Henry Parkes

Henry Parkes was knighted in 1877 and died on April 27th, 1896.

Sir Henry Parkes is commemorated in Coventry by a street name and the name of a Primary School. In New South Wales they have named the town of Parkes after him (which is twinned with Coventry) and his image is reproduced on banknotes and coins. A replica of Moathouse Cottage has been constructed at the museum in Parkes, New South Wales.

The Replica Moat Cottage at the Henry Parkes Centre in Parkes, NSW


Who is Behind the Proposed Changes in the Planning System?

The Coventry Society will shortly be publishing details of the proposed changes to the Planning System in England. John Payne identifies the main people proposing the changes.

Dominic Cummings, the Government’s Chief Adviser, caught Coronavirus and drove 260 miles to his second home in County Durham. In his Rose Garden interview he stressed that it wasn’t a nice place to be and was made of “some sort of concrete blocks”.

Local reporters soon established why Cumming’s second home was not a nice place to be – it had been built without planning permission! Local authority officials later confirmed that had planning permission been sought it would have been refused.

In a recent report in The Times it is reported that “Dominic Cummings pledged last night to overhaul the “appalling” planning system as Britain emerges from the coronavirus crisis”.

Dominic Cummings Second Home in County Durham, constructed without planning permission

In another corner of politics is the “Right Honourable” (sic) Robert Jenrick, the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government – the ultimate decision-maker on planning matters in England.

According to the Financial Times “Mr Jenrick’s political career is testament to his ability to get things built. Before being elected in 2014, he had two applications to enlarge his townhouse rejected by Westminster council. But two months after being elected, a third application was submitted under his wife’s name. Conservative councillors intervened to approve it against the recommendation of planning officers.”

Mr Jenrick attended a Conservative Party Fundraising dinner and was directly lobbied by Millionaire Richard Desmond who wanted to get planning permission for a £1billion waterfront development in London. Tower Hamlets had refused planning permission for the development as it was contrary to the Development Plan for the borough and this refusal was upheld by a Government Planning Inspector.

In January 2020, just months after being appointed as Secretary of State, Mr Jenrick over-ruled his inspectors and granted permission for the development. At Mr Desmond’s request he instructed Civil Servants to approve the development one day before a new Community Infrastructure Levy came into force. This saved Mr Desmond £45 million that would have contributed to schools and other infrastructure to support the development. As Mr Desmond told Jenrick in a text message “we appreciate the speed as we don’t want to give Marxists loads of doe for nothing!”

Perhaps the most surprising thing in all this was that Mr Desmond made only a miserly donation of £12,000 to Tory Party funds. The price of democracy in the UK appears remarkably cheap! Mr Jenrick claims that the accusations made against him were “not simply wrong but actually outrageous” and the Prime Minister agrees with him, stating that the matter is now closed.  They were so outrageous that Mr Jenrick has since had to quash his own approval, conceding the decision was “unlawful”.

The Prime Minister and Richard Desmond. “This matter is closed”

So these two people are behind the proposed changes to the Planning System. I think that we can be fairly certain that they will approach the matter in a fair and completely unbiased way. The planning system is surely safe in their hands! Isn’t it?

John Payne

The views expressed in this article represents those of the author and are not the views of the Coventry Society.