Hope of Norwich conservationists' truce with mountain bikers

Kate ScotterA controversial truce could finally be struck between mountain bikers and those who are trying to protect an important conservation area on the edge of Norwich.Kate Scotter

A controversial truce could finally be struck between mountain bikers and those who are trying to protect an important conservation area on the edge of Norwich.

As reported in the Evening News, council officials had outlawed riders on Mousehold Heath after concerns were raised about the damage they were causing to the nature reserve.

It had been said that they were tearing up land to the south of Mousehold Heath, leaving debris and making holes and ramps which could have posed a danger to other visitors.

Now, the Mousehold Conservators, who are responsible for the reserve, will this week consider designating an area for off-road riders.

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The area being considered for biking is known as the 'hills and hollows' and is situated on the corner of Beech Drive and Valley Drive.

Janet Bearman, vice chairman of the Conservators, said: 'The officers say that's the area where they already use it unofficially for BMX biking and feel that they would prefer to contain it there rather than try to stop them and running the risk of them using other parts of the heath but the byelaw says there should be no biking in Mousehold Heath at all.

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'We have got to come to a conclusion and hopefully that's what we will do on Friday.'

The byelaws for Mousehold Heath, made under Section 21 of the Norwich City Council Act 1984, allow people to ride cycles on the heath where there is a right of way for cycles or a designated route but apart from one designated cycle route through the site, cycling on Mousehold Heath is prohibited.

Two options will go before the committee this Friday, the first of which permits cycling in the 'hills and hollows' area and the second is to continue to ban cyclist from using the reserve.

Officers have recommended the first and said the situation will be monitored through regular liaison between council officers and cyclists and that if the riders do not abide by the rules then they could be barred again.

Malcolm Bryant, chairman of the Mousehold Heath Defenders, which holds the Conservators to account, said they were concerned about lifting the ban on cyclists.

He said: 'The byelaws state that there should be no cycling on the heath and it could open a can of worms if the Conservators start breaking byelaws.

'When they had trouble down at Ringland, they were looking after the people of Ringland and they didn't mess about and said 'off', end of story.

'We're doing a lot of work on Mousehold Heath for the wildlife and it looks lovely but what's the point in doing that if the Conservators don't back up the byelaws?'

What do you think about allowing cyclists to use Mousehold Heath? Write to Evening News Letters, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich, NR1 1RE or email eveningnewsletters@archant.co.uk

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