Mountain bike hire company ‘forced out by forest chiefs’

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An independent mountain bike hire company which has been operating in Dalby Forest for the past six years claims it has been forced out by the Forestry Commission in favour of an international firm.

Managers at Purple Mountain were hoping to continue running the bike centre and cafe at the North Yorkshire beauty spot when the lease ran out at the end of this month.

But when the contract went out to tender, they were shocked to discover they had lost out to two other bidders and will be forced to leave the site on March 31.

There was further disappointment when they learned their cafe would be taken over by the world’s largest food service provider amid fears the decision will erode the use of locally-sourced produce.

Jill Hepburn, general manager of Purple Mountain, which also has outlets in two other British forests, said: “It’s come very much as a shock to us – particularly the cafe, because it’s a global company who has got it.

“Purple Mountain is a local business, it employs local people and we source local produce as much as we can. It has served the community because it is part of the community and we feel we are being forced out by a massive company.”

The Forestry Commission confirmed Dalby-based Pace Cycles would run the hire centre in partnership with national cyclists’ organisation, CTC, and Eurest Services would operate the Courtyard Café following a rigorous selection process, which drew interest from 15 businesses from across the UK.

Forest management director Alan Eves said: “We can understand the disappointment of all the businesses who were unsuccessful in this tendering competition, including Purple Mountain, who have played their part in Dalby’s emergence as a major biking destination. Eurest have a long track record at Dalby having run the popular Treetops Café in the visitor centre since 2007. They already employ 12 local people and will create at least five more posts and also use local produce.”

Purple Mountain has pledged to fight and has launched a petition which has already attracted over 400 signatures.

Mrs Hepburn said: “To build a business up over six years and having to finish in a matter of weeks is quite heartbreaking.”