UK Forestry Commission policy: The Hub@ Glentress
Some of you will already be aware through the press that the Forestry Commission in Scotland, which is not in danger of being privatised unlike in England, is under pressure to become more "commercial" ie. to raise more income from all areas of activity. The first taste of this shift in policy comes, so far as MTBs are concerned, with the news that Tracy Brunger and Emma Guy have been ruled out of the bidding process for running the replacement to The Hub @ Glentress. It appears that this decision has been made very early on in the process, that no explanation has been given( other than that the FC have a prefered bidder apparently) and that there is no right of appeal. This should clearly be worrying to anyone who has enjoyed this excellent facility which has been very successfully run by the girls for about 10yrs.Especially as they have been instrumental in this trail centre becoming one of the most successful in the UK, they put in far more than they are obliged to under their current lease and their combined businesses currently employ about 30 souls who stand to lose their jobs.
The FC rational for this is that they wish to make Glentress a 5 star facility, implying that it is not already although it is advertised as such. Sure there are areas for improvement in the existing trails and further trails could well be added, together with the rumoured linking to nearby Innerleithen but i am sure there are few who have actually used this centre who would question how much the girls have achieved with relatively little. To deny them the opportunity to put forward a business plan the take this forward seems odd therefore not to mention anticompetetive.
The most worrying aspect for me, casually perusing the little i have thus far seen, is the management consultant jargon used in the FCs press release. It would seem to betray a total lack of understanding of the true nature of out sport. BEWARE! if this is the way forward for FC Scotland then we could soon see ALL of our trails on FC Scotland land becoming run for maximum profit with the inherent restrictions to who, why, where and when we can ride. Believe me i worked at a despatch company in London which was taken over by one of these guys, he wrecked the business by thinking he understood, by the power of thought alone, everything that was involved. Within 3 months the majority of clients had left, the best staff also and the company was near dead. This could be the way for our sport on FC Scotland ground. Sure some industry sponsorship of trails would be nice (?) but do you want Megabucks Cycle Corp to tell you you cant ride THEIR trail because they are holding an event you didnt know about when you set out to drive 40-50 miles for a days riding?
This is just part of what may come if those who enjoy these facilities dont do more about it than wait and then bellyache after the fact.
Apologies for the overlong rant and if i have posted it where you cant find it(! hello if you have!) ANY THOUGHTS...ANYONE!
Any additional info would be good so far what i have found is sketchy, i will try to research and post what i find. First off will be the Facebook page to join the campaign to try and get FCS to reconsider, and the email address for the FCS representative to contact
P.S. if you think this is bad the wholesale privatisation of FC land in England will be SOOOO much worse. I'm old enough to remember the changes and broken promises the last time around, in the 80's.
Just to be clear i have no personal or commercial interests in the Hub other than enjoying the facilities and the trails they service.
this is the facebook campaign link . You can also tweet the FC at: <@fcscotland> or email<email@example.com> so get lobbying. remember to keep it clean and use reasoned arguments and empassioned pleas not abuse.Source for these is Mountain Biking UKs Hype column February 2011 issue.
Frankly i dont like to bag the FC as they have done so much to promote access and build on that with the construction of specific MTB trails which have then developed into the facilities which are now under threat of being commercialised. Remember though that it is your tax revenues which have built these facilities(notwithstanding the efforts of local volunteer groups) so you have a right to have your say in what is done with them. Selling the family silver on the cheap is an old Tory trick to appear financially prudent and is disguised with promises of greater investment from private sources. This is rarely beneficial and often leads to asset stripping to fund a return on the initial investment for the share holders. Ask yourself if we are going to get a reasonable return as tax payers for the investment to date?
This isnt exactly the case for FCS as no sell off is( yet) on the agenda and so this consideration is more for those riding in England but the consequences will reach everyone and tax revenues have no borders within the UK so if you live near Laggan you have still contributed to trails throughout england, you might just want to use them sometime.
Can you give us a short version?
"it IS possible that you are faster or slower than anybody else who is having at least as much if not more or less fun"
follow the link at the top to the facebook campaign for the direct word on Glentress.
Regarding the FC in general: HMG says quangos need to save/make money. Forestry Commission is a quango, effectively a government owned business. Has been told to make more money. Intends to do so by selling off land to private companies or "maximising income" where selloff is either unavailable or undesirable. In scotland and wales the devolved assemblies control the FC and have blocked any sales, option is to make more cash.
Consequence of selloff: access to the public can be limited to rights of way only by private owners, they can further restrict access if it interferes with commercial activity, such as tree felling. You wont be able to ride where you like anymore, let alone build trails.
Consequence of maximising income: existing trail centres look for increased income by commercial ties with private companies. Highest bidder gets the right to exploit the facility and all who ride there to gain as much profit as possible. IE. charges go up, restrictions are applied, those who built the trails are no longer needed or relevant. In the case of the Hub neither are existing partners of the FC.
Sorry its a little long again but hopefully clearer? Its a complex subject but i can sum up:
Prices up, restrictions on freedom up, enjoyment ....? who can tell but if it aint broke.....
You're wrong re Scotland
You're wrong re Scotland not selling off forestry commission land. The Forestry commission is the largest land owner in Scotland and indeed Scotland makes up the largest portion of FC land. HOWEVER...
The FC in Scotland has been and continues to systematically sell off parcels of forest to the highest bidder. This is different from England in that it is not in go BUT it is an isideous whittling away of our land.
I Have put in a Freedom of Information request re how much land has been sold off and how much land is planned to be sold in the coming 5 years. Still to hear back.
But don't be relaxed that it's all hunky dory here. It is worse in that it is invisible and unpublicised.