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New ‘action adventure’ high nets park gets the green light in Rochdale

Plans for a ‘high nets’ activity course near a popular Rochdale beauty spot have been given the go-ahead.

The ‘action adventure’ facility will be based at Hollingworth Lake, next to the Pavillion Cafe, on Rakewood Road.

It forms part of the council’s ‘masterplan’ for the country park, which aims to increase the number of ‘land based’ activities at the site.

Documents submitted with the application say participants will get the chance to ‘climb, roll, bounce and play’ on the course, which is suspended 10m high in the air and designed for the young and old.

Described as being ‘perfect’ for children aged six and upwards, it will be open for general use as well as being available for team-building activities, parties and school groups.

However, objections have been raised over loss of habitat, increased traffic problems and the impact on the overall character of the area.

Stephanie Mills, who runs the established Dickey Steps Riding School, also based at Rakewood Road, told the meeting she feared that the high ropes course would spell the ‘demise’ of her business.

Ms Mills explained that the course would create a ‘scary environment’ for her horses and possibly trigger a ‘flight response’

“As you can appreciate, it is paramount for my customers’ experience that they are able to feel safe while riding the horses,” she said.  “The application as it currently stands creates an unsafe environment for us to continue our route safely around the lake.”

She asked the panel to defer the application to enable both parties to come up with a solution to the issue.

Paul Clayton, from Smithy Bridge, also spoke out against the loss of habitat – including a 22.75pc loss in biodiversity – as well as raising concerns over parking and traffic, particularly over the summer months.

Meanwhile, Littleborough Lakeside councillor Peter Reed claimed the proposal was going to ‘destroy a wildlife haven’.

He described the course as looking like  a ‘third world internment camp’ – but retracted his use of the term ‘third world’ when challenged by chair Coun Shakeel Ahmed.

The panel was also addressed by Nathan Matley, of Your Trust, which runs leisure service in the borough on behalf of the council.

Speaking in support of the application, he said alternative sites were ‘very limited’ – but there may be scope for working with the riding school to ensure both activities could run alongside each other.

“We want to operate the park as a multi-use thing, we want people to be able to horse ride and we want people to come and enjoy this activity,” he said.

Mr Matley also made the point that older children currently were not catered for at the country park.

“We want to encourage people to visit the nature, to do some forest skills, to do some education – but also to do something that’s fun and a little bit different, and that sort of fits in with the masterplan element,” he said.

The committee was split on the proposal.

Coun Peter Malcolm felt it was  ‘criminal to destroy the biodiversity of a natural area for a play park’.

“It is tranquil,  it’s relaxing, it’s quiet,” he said. “You can hear the noise from the motorway some distance away but, barring that, it’s outdoor wildlife.

He added: “I feel this changing the character of that side of the park, I don’t feel happy supporting this, I feel it is a tranquil place and should remain as such.”

Coun Billy Sheerin felt it was ‘a really difficult one’ –  recognising the need to provide recreation for young people, but voicing reservations about the site.

However, he moved to approve the scheme and was seconded by Coun Shaun O’Neill, on the grounds further talks were held with Ms Mills.

The panel voted the plans through by six votes to five.

The application was revalidated on the day of the meeting, due to discrepancies in the paperwork.

The council will now have to give United Utilities and Hollingworth Lake Sailing Club 21 days to make representations, having failed to do so ahead of the application being heard.

If they do so the plans may have to go back before the committee.

Littleborough Civic Trust  is continuing to challenge the application/decision on the grounds it remains ‘unsound’.

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