Scotland has a hole in it, roundabout Aberdeen: that is, at least in terms of trail centres with the kind of support you can get from cafes and bike workshops. That’s set to change though, with charity NETCO (North East Trail Centre Organisation) planning a large, multi-use outdoor centre principally organised around mountain biking. With a chairlift.
They’ve identified a site in Durris Forest, about a twenty minute drive southwest from Aberdeen, and are applying for a Community Asset Transfer of the land. A C.A.T. is a politically and legally complicated process specific to Scotland, basically though it’s designed to allow community and related organisations to purchase land from existing owners if they can demonstrate it would be in the public interest. That means the whole thing is in early stages, but the area has been identified as a priority by Scottish Cycling, and the plan seems to have a lot of support.
Other encouraging signs are that NETCO have done the extensive paperwork and hoop-jumping required to become a registered charity (which is much more onerous than forming a company, or a community group), have built an advisory board of some diverse organisations with interests in the area, and got funding to conduct a feasibility study that shaped this plan. They’ve also surveyed 2,000 local residents about plans and claim they were unanimously in favour of the plan.
You can read their full release below. It seems there may already be some trails in the forest, and even if they only realise a fraction of what they’re outlining, we look forward to having another UK mountain biking destination on the map.
“PLANS FOR £10M MOUNTAIN BIKE PARK IN NORTH-EAST SCOTLAND LAUNCHED
“Aberdeenshire-based charity NETCO has unveiled plans to build a “world-class” chairlift-serviced bike park in Aberdeenshire.
“Following the group’s year-long feasibility study, which considered 3 potential sites in Aberdeenshire for the new mountain bike development, Durris Forest, situated between Stonehaven and Banchory, was selected. The £10million project aims to create a unique asset for the mountain biking community, bring more visitors to mountain bike in Scotland and boost domestic adventure sports tourism.
“Trail network plans include cross-country singletracks, downhill runs, flow trails, natural enduro trails and a pump track. Some of the development’s adventure pursuits could include dry slope skiing and snowboarding, ziplining, orienteering, toboggan runs, and tubing.
“NETCO chairman Martin Byers said: “It’s the perfect time to launch our vision of a multi-adventure activity mountain bike park, which we firmly believe is greatly needed in Aberdeenshire.
“Our plans represent an opportunity to inspire more people to discover outdoor sports in a natural environment, bolster Scotland’s current mountain biking facilities strategy, create jobs and help bring sustained growth to our local economy.”
“He added: “Durris is an excellent venue due in part to its convenient proximity to Aberdeen and surrounding towns. It’s rural but easily accessible from the A90 and new Western Peripheral route once opened. This really enhances the location’s potential to achieve our vision and attract people here from across Scotland, the UK and overseas.”
“The proposed year-round facility will span some 256 hectares with more than 45km of purpose-build trails graded for all abilities. Plans feature an environmentally-friendly ‘hub’ building, boasting a restaurant, children’s play zone, education and corporate meeting rooms, wellbeing centre, bike shop, snow sports and bike rental, changing rooms, bike repairs and wash. Included is a 150-space car park and six-space large bus parking area. Accommodation for visitors in the form of glamping is proposed. And it could be the first mountain bike park in the UK to install a mechanical open-air chairlift, designed primarily for mountain bike users.
“Bikers will have quick access to the Cairn-Mon-Earn summit in an open double-seated chair. It will create the truly memorable fun and fast-paced downhill mountain bike experience that is expected of a modern day world-class facility,” Mr Byers added.
“A new outdoor snow sports centre is included in the group’s concept designs. If plans go-ahead, it is believed to be the first mountain bike project in Scotland to feature dry slope skiing and snowboarding facilities. Mr Byers said that the group wants to create a “multifaceted adventure sports facility” with mountain biking at its core. He added: “Incorporating snow sports enhances the appeal of the development for everyone and opens up market opportunities.”
“A nationwide strategy to build large and small-medium facilities within proximity, and in highly populated regions, creates ‘regional clusters’ that are proven to draw more mountain biking visitors to an area. Aberdeen is Scotland’s third largest city by population. No large-scale facility exists in the Aberdeen area, however.
“Graeme McLean, project manager at Developing Mountain Biking in Scotland (DMBinS), part of Scottish Cycling, said: “There is no doubt that the north-east of Scotland represents the country’s final geographical gap in provision of large-scale mountain bike amenities.
“Given the large number of local enthusiasts, as well as the tourism potential, it makes eminent sense for a new trail centre to be developed in Aberdeenshire. NETCO’s emerging proposals are exciting and ambitious and would not only fill this gap in provision, but would propel the region towards becoming one of the UK’s leading mountain biking destinations.”
“Mr Byers said that the group’s proposals are still in development: “NETCO is actively working with the local mountain bike community and public, during these initial planning stages, to find out what facilities everybody would like us to put forward within the overall proposals,” he said, adding: “We’re confident that the final plan will be regarded as world-class in terms of its design, construction and product offering.”
“Now the group intends to apply for a community asset transfer (CAT) of land at Durris. Construction will be planned in phases, the first of which NETCO said would focus on building mountain biking trail networks and installing an uplift facility. Public consultations with the local community will take place early next year ahead of a formal planning application to Aberdeenshire council.
“NETCO was established in 2015 to drive forward plans for a hub mountain bike facility near Aberdeen – identified as a strategic priority by Scottish Cycling in its 2014-2019 facilities strategy.
“Pictures source: Martin Kennedy, Aberdeenshire photographer, martinkennedyphotography.com”
NETCO Advisory Board:
• Scottish Cycling
• Visit Aberdeenshire
• Deeside Thistle Cycling Club
• Aberdeenshire Council
• Aberdeen University
• National trust for Scotland
• Scottish Natural Heritage
• Transition Extreme
• RGU Streetsports
• Enduro World Series
• Cycle Highlands Ballater
• East Coast Oil & Gas Engineering