There has been a flurry of social media activity around the use of this area by a group of young people for their mountain biking activities. Views are numerous and quite polarised, some are extremely supportive believing that these activities are beneficial to our young people particularly during these difficult times, others highlight equally strongly that this area of green space was never designated for this purpose and that the additional activities create damage and nuisance.

As a result of the volume of comments received we included this item on our agenda at our Parish Council Meeting which took place on Tuesday 2nd February 2021 and we invited interested parties on both sides to make their case. This discussion was helpful and constructive and we would like to thank everyone who contributed and those who have written into express their views. If you would like to listen to the discussion you can watch the Council Meeting as it was live streamed and can be viewed using this link.

The Sand Pit and the adjoining field are owned by Henfield Parish Council and our Recreation & Open Spaces Committee has the responsibility to ensure that this and our other land are managed and maintained appropriately. This Committee met on Tuesday 9th February and we heard from various parties including the Parish Council insurers. They confirmed that any formal designation of this area as "the Henfield Bowl,” an area recognised as being one designated for mountain biking activities, would create a number of challenges for us. None of these appear to be insurmountable but they are going to take a little time to consider as we need to commission some additional reports. For example, any such site would need to be inspected by a qualified play safety consultant to give advice on the safety of the jumps, that appropriate signage is in place etc etc. We have now identified and instructed an adviser to complete this work. The absence of these steps could invalidate our public liability insurance and for this reason we are asking our young people to pause their use of this site until we have completed these initial stages.

It is Henfield Parish Councils intention to form a small user group which will include some Councillors and Parish Council staff, some representatives who support the continuation of the mountain biking activities, and some who don't with the intention of exploring whether there is some “middle ground” that might allow some continued use of this location but with an approach which balances the aspirations of the young people who use this site with the enjoyment of this area by other residents, paying particular attention to those residents who live close to the site.

We want to reassure everyone that this work is well under way. It started the day after our Parish Council Meeting and we have also contacted the Steyning Downland Scheme who operate a similar scheme asking to meet some of us at the site to give us advice. Once we have received these two additional pieces of input it is our intention to write to everyone who have taken the time to email us to invite some of them to form a Working Group to see if we can develop a solution which is acceptable to all parties who have been involved in the discussion.

Please watch this space for further information. We will endeavour to keep you updated as we receive further information and will ensure that we keep people updated using social media.

Many thanks to everyone for your input so far and for your understanding.


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