‘Help us take over the county’s park services’

Under threat: Beacon Fel is one of the 93 sites the county council says it can no longer afford to run
Under threat: Beacon Fel is one of the 93 sites the county council says it can no longer afford to run
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THE Wildlife Trust says it wants to take over the running of the majority of Lancashire County Council’s countryside sites – but it will need council funding to do so.

The Trust has stepped into the debate on just what will happen to the sites, which include such popular locations as Beacon Fell.

Alan Wright

Alan Wright

The council says it can no longer afford to run them and hopes to transfer responsibility for its 93 sites by March 2018. It says the move will save £440,000 a year.

Discussions on possible transfers were held with the county’s 12 district councils, 25 parish councils, plus several charitable trusts earlier this year. By late summer the council had received 19 firm expressions of interest to run parts of the service.

Now the Trust has stepped in with spokesman Alan Wright saying: “I think the council have a really big decision to make and I understand why they are taking their time.

“I think the council would save money in the long run by giving us the reserves and giving us some support.”

He added the Trust has proven expertise running centres such as the popular Brockholes nature reserve near Preston and was interested in nearly all the LCC sites.

“We’re looking at then majority of them,” he said. “Everyone of these reserves will have something that we will be looking to protect and improve.”

But he said the Trust has yet to put in a firm bid for any of the sites.

Alan said: “We think we are the ideal people to take these over. We are the experts at what we do. I think we would be the people to do it.

“The reality is we can’t do it without financial support. We are a charity.

“We depend on membership and project support.”

He said the Trust would hope to save some of the ranger jobs at Beacon Fell, but would need funding to do so.

A spokesman for Lancashire County Council said: “We’ve received a number of applications from organisations and individuals who have expressed an interest in taking on future ownership or operation of some of the countryside sites, and we’ll let people know more once we have assessed the applications and decisions have been made. We fully recognise how much people value our countryside sites and are exploring all options to ensure people can still access them.

“We don’t want to close or stop maintaining them, but the financial situation facing the county council is very severe and a consequence of the need to make further huge savings due to ongoing cuts to our budget in the coming years and rising demand for some services.”