Plans unveiled for chairlifted mountain bike park in Scotland

21 November 2017  |  

Plans to build a “world-class” mountain bike park and adventure centre with snow sports in Aberdeenshire have been launched.

Aberdeenshire-based charity the North East Trail Centre Organisation (Netco) revealed its aspirations to deliver the north-east’s largest mountain bike infrastructure project, during its annual general meeting (AGM) at Aberdeen’s Transition Extreme.


Announcing the results of a year-long feasibility study, Netco heralded the £10million community-based project as an opportunity to boost the region’s growing visitor economy and create a unique asset for Aberdeen city and shire communities.

Durris Forest, situated between Stonehaven and Banchory, is the proposed site for the new development.

The project aims to bring more visitors to mountain bike in Scotland and boost domestic adventure sports tourism.

Unveiling the plans, 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 new development at Durris is predicted to cost between £8million and £11million to construct.

It will span some 256 hectares with more than 45km of purpose-build trails graded for all abilities.

The development could lead to as many as 70 new jobs locally, of which, around 45 jobs could be full-time positions. A further 25 new full-time jobs could be created by the project directly.

Once in operation, the development has the potential to contribute over £2million of gross added value (GVA) a year to the north-east economy.

The proposed year-round development could attract in excess of 100,000 overnight and day visitors a year, making it one of the largest leisure tourist-related businesses in Aberdeenshire.

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.

Belinda Miller, head of economic development at Aberdeenshire Council, said: "This is an exciting and innovative proposal from Netco and one that has the potential to put this part of Scotland on the map for family-friendly adventure sports facilities.

"Our regional economic strategy is founded on diversification and a mountain bike and snowsports centre would certainly help us towards this."

Graeme McLean, project manager at Developing Mountain Biking in Scotland (DMBinS), part of Scottish Cycling, said a new large-scale mountain bike development in Aberdeenshire makes “eminent sense”.

"The north-east is Scotland’s final geographical gap in large mountain biking amenities. These exciting and ambitious proposals would propel the region towards becoming one of the UK's leading mountain bike destinations,” he said.

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.

“Nature-based tourism is a billion-pound industry in Scotland, supporting thousands of jobs. And it’s a growing sector with demand for a broad range of outdoor adventure pursuits increasing.”

He continued: “While the project’s tourism potential is key to generating economic benefits for local businesses and people, and maintaining the facility’s financial sustainability, the scope of our ambitions is far wider. Creating a sustainable community development driven by the long-term social, health and wellness, and environmental needs of those living locally is our fundamental motivation.”

The development could also 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.”

The proposals 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.

Concept trail network plans include cross-country singletrack, downhill runs, flow trails, natural enduro trails and a pump track.

Some of the development’s adventure pursuits could include ziplining, orienteering, toboggan runs, and tubing.

And outdoor nature and learning activities such as woodland walks, paths for runners, early year forest schools, stargazing, sport coaching, and an adventure play park for children, could form part of the plans.

Mr Byers said that the group’s proposals are, however, 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.”

News of the project comes as the lucrative mountain bike and adventure sports tourism markets continue to play a major role in boosting Scotland’s visitor economy.

Mountain biking visitors pumped £119million a year into the Scottish economy as far back as 2009, according to Scottish Enterprise.
Last year, Scotland’s national strategic framework for mountain biking – believed to be the first of its kind in the world – estimated that mountain bike visitor spend is worth £149million a year to the Scottish economy.

The wider nature-based tourism sector contributes at least £1.4bn a year to the economy and accounts for nearly 40 per cent of all tourist spending in Scotland, according to Scottish Natural Heritage.

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 visitors to an area.

Aberdeen is the country’s third largest city by population.

No large-scale facility exists in Aberdeenshire, however.

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.

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