We were delighted to see almost 400 people attend the first consultation around an innovation centre combined with a world class bike park in the Tweed Valley.
The evening began with a presentation from Tweed Valley MTB development Coordinator Ed Shoote, who explained the work and progress made since the last community meeting held at the Innerleithen Union Club in 2017. The feedback from that community evening in 2017 was summarised as;
• A model for better trail maintenance in a sustainable model
• New facilities such as toilets, Bike wash, showers etc. at Innerleithen
• A new progressive set of trails for Innerleithen
• A-Line style bike park trails as nothing in Tweed Valley nor Scotland of this scale and style
• Support for local trails association to have permission to manage and promote ‘wild trails’
• Create more economic benefit for the local community from bikers
Following this meeting in 2017 the Innerleithen Community Trust contacted DMBinS to see if the disused Caerlee Mill could be used in some way by the mountain biking community to preserve this iconic building. Working with Edinburgh Napier University and Scottish Enterprise it was considered the mill could build on the successful Mountain Bike Centre of Scotland project and develop as an innovation centre dedicated to the mountain biking industry - the first of its type in the world.
The team visited the success stories of Bike Valley Flanders (road cycling) and Bike Value Portugal (Mass Market bicycle production/testing) to understand how this vision could be achieved. An innovation centre would incorporate specialist knowledge and equipment to support companies to design innovative products and services as well as publicly available athlete performance facilities. It could become a hub for events, demo days, temporary office space and community facilities like a nursery, climbing wall, gym and studio space. The diagram below indicates how the facilities would work together;
It was clear that the unique selling point of Innerleithen is easy access to great trails so the concept grew to incorporate the creation of a world class bike park in the Tweed Valley to improve infrastructure and better sustain the trails that support the innovation centre. To preserve Innerleithen’s USP any development in trails would keep the classic trail style of the Tweed Valley but would incorporate the community’s feedback for progressive trails and ‘A-Line’ style bike park or slopestyle trails.
Early consultations with land owners indicated that a bike park facility would work best outwith Forest Enterprise operations. The technicality and higher risk profile of bike park trails required to compete on the world stage would complement the offer at Glentress which focuses more on Family, XC and the forest experience. Comparative examples show that an expansive but well-rounded destination which includes trail centres, a Bike Park and the ‘wild trail’ network would encourage visitors to stay longer to experience all the biking locations on offer.
An outline business case for the combined innovation centre and bike park was developed in house in late May 2018 and a funding application was made to Scottish Enterprise who approved and funded two consultant reports to drive this vision forward. After a competitive tender process, Urban Foresight were awarded the Innovation centre consultancy work and Select Contracts, the brief to define a bike park model and location.
With support from Scottish Borders Council Leader Shona Haslam, David Mundell MP and local MSP Christine Graham and a lot of hard work from Scottish Borders Council and the project team it has progressed to be included in the list of initial projects under the potential Borderlands Inclusive Growth Deal initiative.
The communities of Innerleithen and Walkerburn have seen great changes with the demise of the textile mills. Mountain biking has grown, however a lack of infrastructure and a sustainable model for trail maintenance has meant the community sees far less economic benefit than it could from the sport.
The innovation centre is intrinsically linked with the bike park to sustainably grow the local economy through supporting local companies to expand, attracting companies to relocate and to support start-ups. This will be alongside technicians and academics supported by Edinburgh Napier University and other Scottish Universities. The resulting cycle industry cluster from Peebles through to the rail links at Galashiels would transform the rural economy.
Innerleithen Innovation Centre highlights
• Options appraisal being undertaken on site locations and costing. The three options are; To remain at Glentress, identify a new build location or to renovate Caerlee mill.
• Demand and company consultations are being completed across the UK and Europe.
• Project is included within Cycling Industries Europe strategy for a network of dedicated sector innovation hubs across Europe.
• Existing companies looking to relocate or expand invited to feed into the consultation with the contact details below.
• Borderland Inclusive Growth Deal funding would be from UK and Scottish Government so Urban Foresight are consulting with the UK-wide mountain bike industry.
• Identifying revenue generating non-bike related uses such as a climbing wall, nursery, gym, studio space are being investigated and enquiries from parties interested in investing are welcomed.
• The project will have a transformational impact on the area and the number of new jobs, and economic benefits will be more accurately defined based on demand analysis.
Chris Sutton CEO of Select Contracts led a presentation explaining that they have designed and built adventure parks in 71 countries and over 41 years, based in Whistler BC with offices in Wales and NZ. Select built the world’s first lift accessed year round bike park and are currently working on 3 more. This project could be the first lift accessed year round bike-park in the northern hemisphere.
Select Contracts have been contracted to consult and report on the best operating model only at this stage. This consultation was the first public engagement of many to help shape the vision, the next step is for Select to analyse the feedback received, prepare a full report and present the findings back to the project team and stakeholders, before another public meeting will be scheduled. Design work is at an early stage and the aim of the meeting was to ensure the concept is on the right track and capture feedback from the public.
• Full options appraisal on 8 locations is in progress across the Tweed valley.
• Location appraisal considers a wide number of factors including; Elevation profile, ownership of land, suitable land for base facilities, relief – ability to get a return to base blue trail in place, trail conflicts and many more factors.
• The current site preference is the front face of Caberston Forest working in full collaboration with the Innerleithen Golf Club.
• A chair lift is considered the most sustainable uplift model due to a host of financial and practical considerations
• The bike park would likely employ 5 full time trail crew, bike patrol staff, operations staff and a full office team. It would also work closely with local businesses to collaborate and avoid competition.
• Full SOAC rights would remain to the site with open access at all times to the trails, only the uplift would be chargeable.
• The bike park would respect the heritage and design of Innerleithen’s trails but would add a handful of machine built bike-park style trails. These would be on a scale and technicality to compete with destinations like Whistler. If Caberston is to be the location early workings indicate no existing trails would need to be lost but some may be altered.
• The additional bike park trails proposed would be unlike anything seen in Scotland to date, they would be maintained to a high standard and offer a very different experience to complement the existing trail centres, DH trails and ‘wild trail’ network.
• Forest land would most likely be transferred out of Forestry Commission, discussions are ongoing around this process. Funding for this transfer and the infrastructure would be mostly private sector sourced.
• Any chosen site would need to offer other attractions such as running & hiking trails, sightseeing routes and zip lines to make the business model work to maintain the trail network on an open access model
• Ski resort style season passes would be available with extended evening opening hours in summer
• The bike park is part of a wider destination plan which would support a trails association to improve and maintain the wider ‘Wild Trail’ network.
If you would like to submit feedback or comments to Select Contracts on this outline proposal please email firstname.lastname@example.org
For companies or entrepreneurs wishing to be consulted on the innovation centre demand study and potential facilities please contact Kate Palmer from Urban Foresight on email@example.com
The full consultant reports on the innovation centre and bike park will be submitted at the end of February 2019. Community engagement at the right time is vital to the success of this project and the date of the next public consultation will be scheduled as soon as possible after the reports have been submitted.
The timing of further consultation meetings will be dependent on the response from our public sector partners, and the progress towards securing funding.