The future of the Scottish Six Day Trials (SSDT), worth more than an estimated £1.5 million to the Lochaber economy, is in jeopardy if “illegal” riders don’t keep off private land, organisers have said.
The annual event doubles the population of Fort William, with more than 400 competitors and support teams alone descending on Fort William.
A shock statement from organisers says the future of the event “will be put in jeopardy” if unauthorised use of motorcycles on private land continues.
The statement said: “We continue to get complaints about unauthorised use of motorcycles on land around Fort William, Kinlochleven and Spean Bridge as well as other locations.
“The future of organised events such as the SSDT, Lochaber MCC events and others will be put in jeopardy if this continues.
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“One of the most affected estates is Jahama Highland Estates who own the land around Lochaber smelter and Kinlochleven hydro.
“The potential loss of land to organised events would have a major impact on the sport we all love.”
Lochaber and District Motorcycle Club chairman Ken Cameron said: “People who are members of clubs, and take part in events are generally law abiding. But what we get are people from the central belt or England who consider this area a free-for-all.
“These are illegal users who drive around the hillside free as a bird. But there are serious consequences of behaviour like this.”
In a letter to the motorcycle club, Olivia Gemmel, operations manager at Jamaha Estates – part of the Liberty aluminium factory group – said: “We have recently noted some illegal motorcycles on a number of our roads through the estates, in Fort William, Kinlochleven and Spean Bridge, as well as others.
“As you can imagine there are significant health and safety implications with regards to people riding on our land without approval, as well as the inevitable maintenance issues this also has.
“Without being able to control and manage such access more successfully will inevitably make being able to grant permission to club events increasingly difficult.
“SNH [Scottish Natural Heritage] will be aware of the damage being done by those who have not asked for or received permission, and as such will take a dim view on future events.”
Saying they worked closely with the SSDT organisers, a spokeswoman for SNH said: “We are aware of concerns about the unauthorised use of motor cycles in the area and the damage these can cause, and we support efforts by local clubs to discourage this.”
A spokesman for Jamaha Estates said: “Because some of the locations [of trials events] are Sites of Special Scientific Interest, we can only legally allow them to be used for each event by securing the consent of SNH, which is normally forthcoming.
“However, continued unauthorised use of the land by individual motorcyclists puts additional pressure on these environments and understandably makes such consent harder for us to obtain from SNH.”