Published: 06:00, 29 June 2019
BMX riders have been told a popular track will be flattened within days due to health and safety concerns.
Red tape means that the series of ramps and mud jumps that have been dug out in woodland alongside Six Fields Path in Tenterden over 20 years, will be consigned to history by the end of June.
It is a crushing blow for youngsters who have honed their BMX skills on the adrenaline-filled tree-lined route but housing firm Dandara owns the land and says it has been forced into the decision.
Dandara built the Church View development of homes in Tenterden and owns the adjacent wood and the firm now says it must close down the busy track, with immediate effect.
A spokesman said the decision has been made with “great reluctance”, but “due to health and safety issues and the concerns of Dandara’s insurers, the jumps will be removed by the end of June 2019.”
Greg Allen, 59, a father of four boys who use the track says it should be kept.
The dad of James, 16, Jonathan, 14, Patrick, 13 and Caleb, eight, said: “The track gives the boys the opportunity for an exciting BMX ride.
“It’s incredible what the kids have done creating the track - it’s spectacular and a breath of fresh air.”
He said that other leisure spaces such as parks were not the same. “There’s not a lot to do that’s physically challenging for active boys and the BMX track is challenging but in a great way.”
Alan Bates, chairman of Tenterden and Districts Residents’ Association (TDRA) is making a bid to save the track because he says it offers youngsters a sense of adventure and challenge that is lacking from the structured play spaces of today.
Retired Mr Bates said: “Sadly there are concerns about liability in the event of accidents and injuries to riders and the public.
“The possibility of flattening out the jumps will be met with dismay by hundreds of children, and former children, who have over the years used the area for their fun.”
He believes today’s children have a sanitised play environment, where there are no opportunities to take measured risks and to develop sense of “independence and challenge”.
Mr Bates said: “There are few opportunities these days for children to enjoy informal outdoor activity in a relatively safe environment. Freedom to design and build their own track – many more hours have been spent digging and building the jumps – is an opportunity which is seldom available.”
He added that Tenterden has the usual slides, swings and roundabouts, but the BMX track offers something different:”We need to have space for children to develop a sense of independence and challenge. Youngsters can learn from managing their own space.”
Speaking on behalf of the TDRA, he said the group believe the woodland could be designated as an informal activity space and fenced off, “with a notice advising of any conditions of use and limitation of liability”.
He wants parents and their youngsters who are interested in forming a BMX club and leasing the land for a 12-month trial to contact the residents’ association to make their views known.
Ciaran Downey, managing director of Dandara South East said: “It is with a heavy heart that we announce the removal of the mud jumps currently being used as an informal bike track on land owned by Dandara in Tenterden.
“We have kept the area open for as long as possible but due to health and safety concerns and potential insurance liability, we are left with no other realistic option but to close it.
“This is not a decision we have taken lightly but we cannot ignore the safety of the children using the jumps, nor the potential cost to Dandara should an accident occur.
"At Dandara, we always strive to support the local communities we operate in and we will continue to look to make a positive contribution to Tenterden wherever we can.”
The firm is aiming to create a network of paths and a play area in the south-west corner of the woodland in the long term, which would be open to the public and managed by an outside company.
Deputy town clerk Claire Gilbert said: “The town council quite understands Dandara’s decision, which will obviously be a disappointment to the town’s BMX riders.
“However, our Recreation Ground Focus Group has been working with skateboarders and a skate park specialist on an exciting new high-spec skate park, which will also attract BMX and scooter riders. The skate park will be included in the first phase of the development, with work scheduled to start next year.”