Extra funding to support a 'brilliant' new mountain bike park in Northampton was agreed by the council at a meeting last night (Tuesday, October 12).
West Northamptonshire Council's cabinet approved the revised budget and effectively granted a 25-year lease for the Hardingstone Bike Park on a disused patch of Delapre Golf Centre.
The councillors were mostly enthusiastic about the free-to-use scheme's potential but one was voiced worries about the risks involved.
Cabinet member for economic development, town centre regeneration and growth, Lizzy Bowen, said: “This project would deliver on a number of the priorities we’ve set out in our corporate plan.
“We’re keen to ensure people who live here have a range of recreational opportunities available to help with both their physical and mental health.
“There are no dedicated facilities like this in the area, which means people who wish to take part in this sport are travelling far out of our area.
“By creating something here, we can cut down on unnecessary travel which will benefit the environment, and we believe it will help support the local economy.”
The Hardingstone Bike Park has been in the works for a while with the old Northampton Borough Council holding a public consultation on the scheme towards the end of last year.
Free-to-use downhill trails suitable for all abilities, plus pump tracks and slaloms, are some of the suggested features of the park, which will also host events and coaching.
The council, Northamptonshire Sport, volunteer and off-road bike enthusiast, Tony Skirrow, and Sport England have teamed up to deliver the project, with plans revealed in September after successful external funding bids.
Approval was granted by the cabinet for the amended budget as well as to delegate authority to a senior officer to enter the grant agreement and lease, subject to being satisfied with financial and legal due diligence.
A conditional grant offer of a £250,000 has been made by the Places to Ride programme, which is being delivered through a partnership of British Cycling. Sport England and the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.
A planning application was submitted last month following initial discussion with Hardingstone Parish Council, and a drop-in session is now being planned for those who live nearby to look at the proposals.
If the project proceeds, the proposal is for Northamptonshire Sport to manage its day-to-day operation through volunteers.
Councillor Bowen added: “It’s really important to note at this stage that we still have a long way to go.
“Planning would need to be agreed and we would also need to go out to tender to see if the scheme can be delivered within the available budget.”
Cabinet member Phil Larratt thinks the park is an 'excellent' use for the site and will be 'a great asset for Northampton and West Northamptonshire and beyond'.
Fellow cabinet member David Smith believes it would support the work already happening at places like Adrenaline Abbey in Corby to produce top-quality cyclists, remarking: "Build it and they will come, no question with this project."
"I think it's fantastic, I promise you, this will be a great success. This will drive people to the West for another reason," he added.
"We've got a sporting offering for most sport, this is health, this is adrenaline, it's a really positive thing and from a community perspective, local groups getting kids on bikes, what a brilliant thing to do."
Delapre councillor Emma Roberts said she supports the scheme and 'wants to be excited' about it but she is concerned about the risks involved, such as if funding is not secured.
"I can't get excited because I feel like there's so many things that could go wrong and we've not looked at what could happen if they go wrong," she said.