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AimUp Needs Your Support!!

Mountain biking trail centres have provided the double impact of giving those who ride their bikes off road a destination for fun and exertion and for the regions who host them, a much needed positive economic boost.

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The 7stanes network of mountain biking centres in the South of Scotland were initially developed as part of the response to the impact of the foot and mouth outbreak of 2001 on tourism and hill farming. The visitors these centres brought to the region made a significant positive contribution to the local economy. The Forestry Commission Scotland’s 7stanes led the way in the development of MTB facilities in the UK and are rated among the best in the world.

By 2010, the majority of these visits were made to the two 7stanes centres in the Tweed Valley, Glentress and Innerleithen, which continue to be rated among the best for trail experiences anywhere.

Recent years have seen a growth in the number of MTB facilities across the UK and many new innovations in the sector at international level. These have changed the competitive environment in which mountain biking in the Tweed Valley operates, leading to recognition that, in order to continue to compete successfully in the growing MTB market, there is a need for additional facilities in the Tweed Valley that add to the biking experience and attract return and new visitors.

This need is exacerbated by the continued trends of decline in the Tweed Valley to visitor numbers, occupancy rates in the local accommodations and numbers of businesses going out of business. The rates of decline in the Scottish Borders are higher than for the rest of Scotland.

The community of Innerleithen in the Tweed valley decided that MTB was a leading theme and opportunity to be pursued to address this decline and as a means to sustain the community. A community call to action resulted in the formation of AIMUp, a group of volunteers who have developed a viable operational plan for new facilities which includes a unique dedicated rail based uplift system, suitable for use by all visitor types. AIMUp’s proposal includes rechannelling earnings to community projects and trail development. AIMUp secured planning permission and land owner agreements but capital funding from either public or private sources eludes them.

To address the economic decline and to secure the Tweed Valley’s future as a year round World destination, there is need for a for step change – a game changer is needed which can act as a catalyst for step change, a new café on its own is not sufficient. AIMUp views its uplift as the step change and a priority. The dedicated uplift with new visitor facilities and trails in the Tweed valley is the minimum priority if differentiation at National and continued status as an international centre is credible.

Meantime a report has been commissioned by Scottish Borders Council on behalf of the Tweed Valley Mountain Biking Stakeholder Group – a consortium of public and private sector bodies that has been formed in support of the South of Scotland Alliance’s Rural Economic Development Programme 2014 – 2016. This programme has identified mountain biking as one of four strategic priority areas for capital related activity in the South of Scotland. The Stakeholder Group has yet to determine the priorities for investment and a forward action plan.

AIMUp has a plan in need of investment. AIMUp is pressing its case with the Stakeholder Group and seeks statements of support from the MTB and wider communities that:

  • The dedicated uplift system will add to the attractiveness and status of the Tweed Valley as a year round MTB destination
  • The uplift is a priority and will be a “game changer”
  • It will be more than downhill mountain bikers who would use the uplift.

Please email Ian Campbell at innerleithenaimup@gmail.com to offer supporting comments.

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