The Peak District National Park fires the starting gun as the disposal of the North Lees Estate gets underway. Ed Douglas reports on latest developments.
The first step in deciding the future management of Stanage will be taken this Friday, when members of the Audit, Resources & Performance Committee of the Peak District National Park Authority discuss the best method of considering bids from organisations interested in either buying or managing the North Lees Estate.
Officers have recommended the committee support a ‘Gateway Disposal Process’ – essentially a two-stage process. Stage one involves agreeing the criteria on which bids will be made at the end of September. The second stage would see the approval of a preferred bidder with a completion date for the whole process set at June 2013. The alternative is a more conventional and rigid system of inviting and evaluating tenders, like that used in the disposal of the Roaches.
The PDNPA says this staged process of disposal will allow “an important early step… to carry out a thorough review of the commercial options available” for managing North Lees. The authority could even pull the plug on the whole disposal process in September if this commercial review proves a success – having in the meantime gathered ideas from outside parties on how they think the estate might be managed in future.
The document outlining these proposals gives little information on the PDNPA’s guiding philosophy for disposing of Stanage – or what improvements could be made to boost what it calls “income generation”. But there is clearly more emphasis on commercial potential in off-loading Stanage than there was in the process that saw the National Trust and RSPB take over the running of the Eastern Edges. An emphasis on business potential is also at odds with the management plan developed by the Stanage Forum.
The estate’s income currently includes car parking and camping charges from the North Lees site, which is popular with visiting climbers and walkers. New or more expensive car parks, or a change in the character of the campsite to improve its facilities and raise camping fees, could be among the proposals considered by the authority. Shooting rights are currently not available at North Lees, but this option might also be considered.
The BMC will be paying close attention to this unfolding saga to protect climbing and conservation interests at one of the world’s most important and popular crags. BMC Access Rep Henry Folkard called for the disposal process to be transparent. “The property is in public ownership, and that gives the public a right to be kept fully in the picture as to when and how they can contribute to the final outcome.”
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