Controversial unauthorised engineering works to expand a motorcycle trials venue in a popular wooded riverside beauty spot should be approved, planning officers have recommended.
Richmondshire District Council’s planning committee will consider Croft Trials Club’s retrospective planning application to build four new tracks to simulate natural rocky gullies at Dalton Woods, Dalton on Tees, for trials riding and practice.
The application site spans some 27 hectares of mixed woodland on the southern bank of the River Tees and includes Dalton Batts island, which riders can reach via a causeway.
Planning papers state the site has been used for organised trials since its purchase by the applicant in 1983.
An officers’ report to the meeting states: “As it has already been established that the use of the site for motorcycle trials riding and practice is lawful, the proposed development is therefore acceptable in principle.”
However, it adds as the construction of the track sections will result in intensifying the activity, issues relating to impacts upon landscape and visual amenity, ecology and biodiversity, and public rights of way are assessed needed to be considered.
The retrospective application has attracted more than 200 letters of objection and support, making it among the most controversial recent development proposals in Richmondshire.
Many of the 143 objections have pointed towards “wanton environmental damage” and the effects on biodiversity and wildlife in the woodland, the impact of a popular public right of way and related safety concerns.
Thornaby Angling Association, which has held angling rights in the area for many decades, said it failed to see “how the applicant’s works which involve the excavation of woodland floors and steep banksides” were compatible with the council’s environmental policies.
Dalton on Tees Parish Council said the well-used public footpath “has been rendered unusable”.
A spokesman for the council said: “Even in the driest of conditions this part of the footpath is now unsafe to use, the close proximity of trials bikes using the adjacent section making it even more dangerous.
“The applicant’s creation of, by his own admission, over 100 sections in Dalton Woods has taken an enormous toll on the flora and fauna of this once beautiful historic landscape.”
However, the proposal has received 82 letters of support, contending the development forms part of a well-maintained operation with limited ecological, landscape or impacts on those living nearby.
One letter of support states the woodland is one of very few areas that there are to practise trial riding legally in the region, describing it as an “invaluable facility for the community”.
The officers’ report state no ecological evidence has been submitted to support whether the development has affected wildlife, but as the site has already been used for motorcycle trials riding and practice the proposals were “not considered to intensify the land uses significantly” or be unacceptable on an ecological and biodiversity basis.
Recommending the plans for approval, officers added: “Although a number of public comments have raised concerns over potential encroachment onto the public right of way and conflicts between motorcycle trials riders and its users, it should be noted that no records have been found of any such incidents occurring.”