Countryside ‘up for offer’ as council budget cuts bite

Beacon Fell
Beacon Fell
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Ninety-three countryside sites across Lancashire could soon be taken over by trusts and charities.

Lancashire County Council, which is responsible for sites including Beacon Fell, Wycoller Country Park and Spring Wood Nature Reserve, is looking at transfering ownership because of budget cuts.

The service has an annual budget of around £440,000 for 2015/16, but this is set to reduce to £310,000 in 2017/18, and then to zero after that.

Warnings have been made that unless groups come forward, maintainence could be slashed and public access threatened.

County Coun Marcus Johnstone said: “I recognise how much people value our countryside sites and over the next year we’ll be exploring all options with a view to maintaining public access to them, and harness the willingness of volunteers in helping to run them.

“The last thing we want to do is close or stop maintaining them, but the financial situation facing the county council is very severe and, unless the funding situation changes significantly, we may not even have enough money to deliver some of our most vital statutory services by April 2018.

“Some of the options for our countryside sites may include transferring ownership to trusts or charities. Some we may be able to keep in county council ownership and carry out only very basic maintenance.

“We would welcome approaches from organisations which may wish to explore options to operate any of the sites. Whatever happens in future, the existing public rights of way across Beacon Fell will remain, and we’re hopeful that a way may be found to maintain the site and provide facilities at no cost to the county council.”