Purple Mountain, who currently operate the Bike Centre and Cafe at Dalby Forest, have lost their tender to continue at the site. They will be replaced by Pace Cycles and the CTC, who will operate the new Dalby Bike Barn, and Eurest, part of the multi-billion pound Compass Group, who will operate the courtyard cafe.
The Forestry Commission took tenders from over 15 interested parties in December 2011 and announced the results of that process last week. Following that, Purple Mountain, who also operate another centre in Kielder, have been given until 31st March to wind up their business at the site.
They’ve been in Dalby since 2006 and are rather upset about the whole affair, saying that they are “…disappointed at the way we have been treated by the Forestry Commission a government/public body.”
Purple Mountain feel that the decision to use a large firm such as Eurest to provide catering goes against the ethos of supporting local businesses. In a press release about the matter they said that their Fairtrade, organic and free range products are going to be replaced by a “large global company with a dubious history and reputation” and that the 60 jobs at the centre are now in jeopardy.
“We have a number of issues with the process followed and believe that we have not been treated fairly and that the process lacks the transparency that is demanded by a public body. We have been informed that there is no appeal process.”
In a press release the CTC, the UK’s largest cycling charity, said that they are looking to make Dalby their flagship centre and plan to use it to deliver their top end training, guiding, coaching and education services.
Dan Cook, the CTC’s Senior Off-road Officer, said; “Dalby provides an ideal environment for each of the 29 different courses that CTC delivers, as well as a great base for community development. Partnering with Pace and Forestry Commission at Dalby Bike Barn means that we can inspire more people to cycle.”
Pace Cycles head honcho Adrian Carter is no stranger to Dalby, having used it to develop his products for the past 25 years. They also moved their suspension servicing centre to Dalby last year. In the new development they plan to offer a “high quality retail experience supplying a range of bike brands and accessories”.
Adrian had this to say: “Dalby Bike Barn’s key objectives are to provide a focal point for the local cycling community, attract more tourists and keen road/mountain bikers into Dalby and once here deliver the very best courses and events, technical support and retail experience all in a warm and welcoming environment.”
Pace and the CTC currently plan to hold an open day to recruit staff for the new centre. More information can be found on the CTC website.
It’s not the first time that an incumbent operator has lost a tender for the trail centre business they’ve helped grow. In 2003, trail centre pioneers Sian and Dafydd Roberts were served with a notice to quit from the cafe and visitor centre that they’d helped make a massive success of in the previous ten years. There was an outcry over the way that was done (led in part by our Chipps) and they were given an 18 month reprieve, although they lost the later, official, tender process.
Tracy and Emma from The Hub in Glentress also lost their tender to continue at the Scottish trail centre despite having run the cafe and shop there for ten years, taking it from an almost unheard-of location to one of the biggest tourist attractions in the Scottish Borders. They lost the tender to run the multi-million pound Glentress Peel centre to Alpines Bikes and the local owners of the Glentress Hotel.
In both of those cases there was never any hint that the tenders were awarded unfairly or that the correct process hadn’t been followed – and we’ve been given no actual evidence by Purple Mountain to suggest that could be the case with the Dalby contract. Interestingly enough a Freedom of Information request has been submitted to the FC asking to see the tender submissions and expressions of interest for the Dalby site. That’s due a reply around the 5th April, which should make for interesting reading.
All this does beggar a question however; who would want to take the risks required to establish a new trail centre, work hard to make it a success and then, if they are successful, wind up having it taken off them either by the Forestry themselves or by larger and better financed operators?