Following the group’s year-long feasibility study, which considered three potential sites for the new development, Durris Forest, situated between Stonehaven and Banchory in Aberdeenshire, was selected. The £10million community-based project aims to bring more visitors to mountain bike in Scotland and boost domestic adventure sports tourism.
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 facility will span some 256 hectares with more than 45km of purpose-built trails graded for all abilities. Concept trail network plans include cross-country singletrack, downhill runs, flow trails, natural enduro trails and a pump track. 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.”
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 MTB 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 MTB destinations.”
The proposals feature an environmentally-friendly ‘hub’ building, boasting a restaurant, children’s play zone, education and corporate meeting rooms, well-being 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. Some of the development’s adventure pursuits could include ziplining, orienteering, toboggan runs, and tubing.
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. A NETCO-led project team of professional advisors will be formed to manage the development’s design and build phases, and secure funding, if plans get the go-ahead. 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. The group intends to operate and maintain the facility if approved. Public consultations with the local community will take place early next year ahead of a formal planning application to Aberdeenshire Council.