Lancashire County Council (LCC) have announce they will be cutting 52 non-statutory services from its budget by 2018, with a planned reduction in services and budget from April 2016. The Countryside Service is one of these non-statutory services that maintains 93 public sites around the county. Among those sites are Lee Quarry and Cragg Quarry above the town of Bacup in East Lancashire.
The Quarries were developed as mountain biking trail centres by LCC employee, Tony Lund and provide a host of weatherproof, rocky trails from red to black grades as well as two pump tracks. The sites have played host to a wide range of mountain biking events from the Brownbacks race series, PMBA Enduro stages, Haglofs 5 to our own Singletrack Classic Weekender events. The trail centres attract hundreds of riders every week and provide an alternative to the traditional forest based trail centres.
The Countryside Service has 93 sites with three so called ‘honey pots’ of Beacon Fell, Wycoller Country park and Springwood. Most of the sites the council has are land reclamation (Wycoller Valley was planned to be a reservoir until an underground water source was discovered, so the Council bought all the land back off the Water Authority that had compulsory purchased it originally). The other 90 sites include many small pockets of land often with liability issues preventing them from being commercially developed. Lee and Cragg quarries are part of that group as well as Healey Nab and Bickerstaff woods.
“We do not want to stop people from using our Country Parks, picnic sites and woodlands but we won’t have the resources to maintain them in the future”
In 2014 it was announced that local bike shop Ride On cycles of Rawtenstall, had been granted permission to develop a trail head facility that would include a bike shop, workshop and cafe facilities for riders, however to date the project has not started, and after this latest announcement from LCC it seems the project may now have more obstacles to face.
The official schedule of cuts starts in April 2016 with the budgets for all Countryside services being transitioned from allocated to funds to reserves. The full closure of all services will be completed by April 2018. How this will practically affect the provision, access and maintenance is currently unclear but at some point the issue of who is liable for the quarry sites will be tackled and unless the sites are taken over by some other organisation it’s quite likely the site will be closed off to mountain bikers at some point between April 2016 and 2018. On the councils’ to do list there is a line that simply states, ‘Timetable for cessation of services‘.
Other items on that list include…
- Explore opportunities with partners, volunteers and the local community on alternative delivery models and potential for the transfer of assets.
- Development of a disposal / transfer programme – Assets being our 93 sites
An LCC spokesperson stated, “We do not want to stop people from using our Country Parks, picnic sites and woodlands but we won’t have the resources to maintain them in the future. Over the next 12 months we will explore a range of options for the sites, and obviously securing public access for the future will be key to any proposal. Some of these options might involve passing the sites to Trusts or charities and we are open to suggestions from interested parties. Access to the wider Countryside on Public Rights of Way is not affected by this proposal.”
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