Purple Mountain lose Dalby Bike Centre and Cafe tender

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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.

They’ve set up a Facebook page and E-petition to garner public support against the decision, getting over 800 signatures to date.

“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?

Comments (22)

  1. Eurest – nice. Have plenty of experience of them through the military’s Pay As You Dine (or more popularly, Starve) – crap food, small portions, high prices, maximum profits, no interest in the needs and wants of the customer. Dalby’s my local and always hit Purple Mountain Cafe, I won’t be sampling what Eurest have to offer…

  2. That last paragraph hits the point very well indeed.

  3. When Purple Mountain got the contract to run the shop in Kielder it was at the expense of someone whop had invested time and money in developing a bike shop/hire business there. What goes around comes around.

  4. Not good news about the cafe at all.

    To be fair though, the shop was pretty pants.

  5. +1 about Purple Mountain kicking Kielder bikes out. They can’t really complain…

  6. Local sentiment has it that Purple Mountain did little or nothing with trail building.

  7. Negotiate a good SLA with Eurest and you’ll be fine. Otherwise you’ll be shafted.

  8. Someone’s been sucked in by the spin purple mountain are firing out at the moment……… Possibly the most misguided thing i’ve read on this site, and that includes all the nonsense spouted on the forum!

  9. Sounds like the norm with respect to government contracts. Sentiment has to be written into the brief, and that just asks for trouble.

  10. +1 on purple mountain taking from kielder bikes

    “to make Dalby their flagship centre”
    Might want to fix up the trails a bit first, maybe stop removing trail features and what appears to be the withdrawl of way marked trails?

  11. Went to Dalby for 1st time recently, very underwhelmed by the upkeep of trails and thought the marking very poor. Really good Rocky road in the cafe though! 😉

  12. Someone’s been sucked in by the spin purple mountain are firing out at the moment……… Possibly the most misguided thing i’ve read on this site, and that includes all the nonsense spouted on the forum!

    How exactly? By quoting both the new Franchise winners opinion on running the site both from the CTC and Adrian Carter’s perspective, as well as Purple Mountains view on what happened?

  13. I remember the kiosk/cafe that existed pre-Purple Mountain at Dalby – and I kind of miss it.
    If you like simple good and highly inexpensive food at Dalby may I recommend Jinglby Thorn tea room near Dixon’s Hollow.

  14. I’m local and have fairly firm views on this subject (you can read them on the forum thread) but I’ve got to defend the reporting here. Regardless of your views on the Dalby contracts (which I think is presented in a pretty balanced way here) the bigger issue really is how businesses can invest to develop in these situations, without having a secure long term future.

    The FC are doing their duty with public money, balancing the best service for users with the best financial benefit, but the danger is that these sort of contracts always end up favouring larger companies, who can afford to lose a contract here and there, as opposed to the local business for which the one contract is all there is. It means the risks at new tender time are so much higher for the smaller business.

    The Dalby picture isn’t straight forward in this respect though – there’s no black and white. I’m hopeful that a good decision has been made, and the potential of the trails and environment at Dalby will be fully exploited.

  15. This is the problem with Trail centres.. they attract a lot of people. That in turn attracts the vultures companies and not the ones who drive the scene.
    In each of the three cases above, the original cafe has been focal to the development of the centre, in all three, would the sites have been as successful without the drive and devotion of the cafe’s…I think not… the people running those cafes in the quite early years did not reap large rewards, and just as their hard work is rewarded the FE boot them out on commercial grounds. I know its public money, but also the FE are supposed to serve the public interest in more ways than money. Serving local people in local jobs fulfils that role.
    Trail centres really are a victim of their own success. Maybe they have seen their day, after all riding with hundreds of people on the same bit of arrow driven trail is really the antithesis of what mountain biking is about.

  16. “This is the problem with Trail centres.. they attract a lot of people. That in turn attracts the vultures companies and not the ones who drive the scene.”
    Simonm, I can very much assure you that Adrian Carter (Pace Cycles) very much drove the scene at Dalby for many years, he’s pretty much credited with organising the early trail building there, setting up SingletrAction volunteer trailbuilders and funding the Dixon Hollow Pace Bike Park (hence the name). Do your own research about the cycling charity CTC.

  17. Don’t know about Dalby but Purple Mountain at Kielder left a lot to be desired. Had a pretty poor hire bike there, maintenance clearly left a lot to be desired and my day was marred by chronic chain-suck among other things. Worse, when I took the bike back (earlier than originally intended) and told them about it, they could not have been less interested.
    The Hub saga at Glentress left a bad taste but don’t assume it’s exactly the same story here. Would expect Pace + CTC to have higher standards.

  18. This isn’t comparable to Glentrss at all. The new cafe at Glentress is run by the owners of the Glentress Hotel – hardly a multinational corporation!

  19. Quite interested as to how the CTC are actually involved – just in the provision of courses or do they take some part in financing and maintaining/developing the infrastructure?

    In my simple head I pay my CTC subs so they can campaign for cyclists’ rights, provide legal assistance, get invovled in trail advocacy, etc. CTC involvement in a project like this on the surface sounds like a quite a departure from their current remit.

  20. Mostly good sense been talked on here so far. The article is just a report on the opinions of the various parties, without biased supporting of one or the other.

    My opinions – the shop has some good staff, but good people have to do as they’re told by the boss. I never really need to use the shop as I’m local but in Scarborough which has a few decent shops. So I only need to use the shop at Dalby for emergencies, of which there are few.

    The cafe was pretty good I thought, again, don’t use it often, but it’s not too expensive & the food’s good.

    I don’t know the Pace people that well, but they seem like a great lot. In this part of the country everyone seems to know everyone & I’ve never heard a bad word about Adrian & his daughter (can’t remember her name, sorry) volunteers on kid’s cycling activities.

    I’m SMBLA certified but from what I know the CTC courses are pretty good too, so that’ll give people good choice.

    A place I worked at a few years ago used Compass & they did some great food. But I guess it depends on how well they’re negotiated with. This was IBM so they had their heads screwed on…

    Whether right or wrong, I doubt that PM will get anything changed, once descisions like this are made they seem to stay made.

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