Ambitious mountain bike trail project reaches planning stage

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By Colin Smeeton

Plans for a new £400,000 mountain bike venue on Arran have taken a step forward with a planning application submitted to North Ayrshire Council.

The application is for the formation of cycling trails for skills coaching, a floodlit asphalt pump track, a shelter, public bicycle repair station with a spares vending machine and a bike wash in Dyemill Forest outside Lamlash.

Most cycling disciplines, including balance bike, XC, enduro, dravel, DH, BMX and trials, would be catered for.

In a 47-page business plan, in addition to 44 related documents submitted with the application including landscape and ecological assessments and public survey data, the applicant laid out the project’s community benefits for Arran.

As previously reported in the Banner, Arran High School Mountain Bike Club (AHSMTBC) is behind the proposals and club chairman Robert McNeice told planners: ‘We intend to create an accessible, inclusive and safe, all-weather environment to grow and develop our island’s cycling community, inspiring Arran to cycle.

‘The facility will encourage residents and visitors to engage in cycling in many forms, regardless of their background, gender, age, ethnicity or ability. With this new facility, our island’s cycling community will benefit from being able to grow and develop local competition and events in addition to providing a safe and accessible area for coaching and skills development. To ensure the recreational area is used by as many of our community as possible, the trails will be sympathetically designed and built around existing walking paths.

‘We wish to create an area that allows for outdoor learning and development of the site’s biodiversity and history. Our forest management plan will look to improve and preserve the diversity of the habitat and wildlife. In addition to the trails, we will provide access to a well-maintained fleet of bikes and helmets. There will be increased opportunity for people to enjoy their first taste of mountain biking in a safe and enjoyable environment with qualified leaders and coaches offering group sessions.

‘It will provide an ideal area within cycling distance of Arran High School for young leaders and coaches to deliver mountain biking sessions to their younger peers. The link between physical activity, contact with the natural environment and improved mental and physical health is well established. By improving the accessibility of mountain biking on Arran, we can play a major role in improving our communities health and wellbeing. There are further opportunities to link with developing mountain bike related healthcare programmes and pathways, or in projects specifically designed to support people with mental or physical health issues.’

The project has been progressing slowly since 2015, with the exact cost in the region of £388,769. There is widespread support from a number of anticipated sources of funding, including 65 per cent of the capital total from Sports Scotland Cycling Facilities Fund.

If the planning application is successful, work could start later this year with a huge opening festival planned for 2023. The application is currently under consideration by planning officials.