Petition launches to revive motorcross at Mepal but what’s happened since makes that most unlikely
PUBLISHED: 11:34 31 August 2018 | UPDATED: 11:34 31 August 2018
One thousand people signed a petition in less than 24 hours calling for a motorcross track to be reopened for 28 days during winter.
The petition was launched amid claims that the public were duped into believing that if motorcross permission was refused at Mepal the site would instead become a public nature reserve.
In 2015, local people were asked to sign a petition, organised by MP Steve Barclay, asking would they rather have a motorcross track or a nature reserve.
Martin Wright, of FX-15 MX, said: “The site was closed as it was said it was expedient to deliver a nature conservation area. Everybody thought it would get bird hides, pathways, conservation areas but it was never for public amenity.
“The plan, now implemented, was delivered by us, but we were removed from the site.
“Worse, the site now poses a health and safety risk.
“It is neglected, has drug paraphernalia, signs of illegal shooting and a burnt out car as well as track marks of quad and bikes on the site.
“The reasons for being stopped are purely political driven by councillors who promised a nature reserve.”
The track attracted up to 2,000 people at weekends when it operated for 28 days a year, from November to March with enthusiasts travelling from all over the UK and Europe.
Mr Wright said: “We ran it from 2012 to 2016. We delivered on everything asked of us by the councils and other stake holders like Natural England and wildlife trusts. What has closure achieved? Nothing other than a danger to the public.
“This could be a major economic and tourist boost for the area with so many people coming in winter months boosting trade to local hoteliers and restaurants,
“Everybody was led up the garden path. It was never intended to be a public amenity nature reserve once we left.”
On track days there would be stalls, catering, marshalls, medics, toilets and was open from 10am to 4pm on Saturdays and Sundays from November to March.
Mr Wright said: “This is the only fully rideable site in the whole country. It is the perfect winter track. To find a quarry that is 10 metres deep in sand is impossible.”
County and district councillor Anna Bailey said: “The wildlife area at Mepal is privately owned by Hanson, who has benefited from permission to extract sand and gravel at the site since the 1960s.
“Various planning permissions have been granted over the years. Those permissions included planning conditions and a Section 106 agreement with Cambridgeshire County Council as the minerals and waste planning authority, to restore the site to a fenced conservation and wildlife area when extraction ceased.
“Within this, there was a requirement to have controlled pedestrian access to the site for nature conservation study. It was never required, or intended, that the site would be open for general public access.
“A planning application for motocross events on up to 60 days a year was submitted to Fenland District Council in November 2015.
“The application was heard by the planning committee and was refused by a majority of eight to one. The applicants did not appeal the decision to the Secretary of State.
“The site owner, Hanson, gave notice to the motocross organisers to vacate the site in February 2016.
“The restoration work was completed in early 2016 and the site owner entered into a Section 106 legal agreement not to undertake or allow activities that are likely to prejudice nature and wildlife conservation. “
“This meant that Hanson agreed that all permitted development rights would be removed.
“As the district councillor for Mepal, I have always sought to represent the views of residents of the area.
“I have never said that the site was intended for open access and I have simply worked to ensure that the promises made to local people, to create an area for wildlife when permission for gravel extraction was granted, were fulfilled.
“The site is an important part of the long term vision for creating a rich array of habitats in the area, and which will contribute to the creation of a wider ecological network extending out to the Ouse Washes and beyond.”