Forestry commission defends Hub veto

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FORESTRY bosses have published an open letter in response to what they claim is “misinformation” concerning them and the Hub cafe at Glentress, writes Sally Gillespie.

The Hub’s Tracy Brunger and Emma Guy recently revealed that they were out of the bidding to be part of Forestry Commission Scotland’s (FCS) new £9million centre at the popular mountain biking spot. That news prompted a backlash online at the Hub’s Facebook page and on cycling forums, with Hub supporters also emailing the quango in protest.

Now FCS is hitting back, saying businesses at the new centre will help to cover the £250,000 needed each year to maintain the trails at Glentress and other 7stanes sites.

FCS chief executive Simon Hodge tells critics: “I understand your disappointment that the Hub was not successful. However, I hope you can recognise that it would not be acceptable for a public body like Forestry Commission Scotland to reject other stronger bids.”

7stanes flagship Glentress has grown in popularity from 90,000 visitors 10 years ago to nearly 300,000 visitors annually, and the new centre has been designed to cope, he says.

The 12-acre site will include more parking, better facilities, a larger café and bike shop, information and improved wildlife viewing areas and a base for Glentress staff.

Mr Hodge said FCS built and maintains the trails, and acknowledged volunteers helped, adding: “The Hub has also been an important part of the Glentress story over the last nine years.”

An FCS spokesman said the open letter was an attempt to put FCS’s side: “There was quite a lot of misinformation being bandied around, mainly about who started up Glentress and who is responsible for it.”

Speculation online suggests Edinburgh-based Alpine Bikes, possibly with Tiso, could get the contract, but FCS remains tight-lipped and says the successful bidder will be announced towards the end of January.

Local MSP Jeremy Purvis is concerned about the tendering process and hopes to meet forestry bosses.

He said: “I don’t think there has been the growth in numbers that FCS is saying and there is a worry that because there is a lack of track development people are not getting the challenge they are looking for.

“I want to see the Tweed Valley as the European destination for mountain biking and I think unless all the local agencies, including FCS, see that as a shared ambition there will be a decline and we cannot let that happen,” he said.