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Plans for Kirkwall mountain bike trails take a big step in the right direction

Organisers now looking to secure funding with hopes that facility could be used for 2025 Island Games

Orkney cycling
The area to the west of the Picky pitches is currently being used to grow bere barley Image: Orkney Islands Council

Long-running plans to create a new cycling facility in Kirkwall have taken a big step forward.

Orkney Islands Council has agreed to lease an area between the Pickaquoy Centre and Kirkwall Golf Course for a planned park.

The area, listed as K4 in council plans, has been freed up in recent months, as the council concluded that plans to use it for housing were no longer appropriate.

The area, beyond the picky rugby pitches, had previously been used by the UHI Orkney’s agronomy institute.

Orkney Islands Council had agreed to go out to public consultation to ask people how they felt the land should be used.

However, last week, it was announced at a meeting of the Pickaquoy Centre Trust that the council has agreed to lease K4 to the Pickaquoy Centre, specifically for it to become home to a new purpose-built mountain biking facility, well away from roads and traffic.

Council has agreed to lease site specifically for new cycling tracks

Those behind the project aren’t sharing an estimated cost for the project but they are looking to sources outside the county to cover most of the costs.

Local pots of money will make up the rest.

Daniel Brazier, from Orkney Cycling Club, has been volunteering his time, driving the project forward for the last three-and-a-half years.

He said the new facility would be for all ages and used both recreationally and competitively.

While there aren’t yet any images of what the facility may look like, it would include mountain biking trails of varying difficulty.

There’s also potential for a large ramp and tunnels.

It may also include walking tracks.

There are even hopes that it could be ready for Orkney to host the Island Games in 2025.

Mr Brazier said this would be “the icing on the cake”.

He said: “The news is fantastic and represents a real milestone in this project.

“A huge amount of effort has gone into getting to this stage so a big thanks to everyone that has contributed so far.”

“A lot of thought has gone into how to get the best out of a facility like this at the chosen location.

“Things like connection to active travel routes, biodiversity and flood resilience were all considered at the earliest design stage.”

Mr Brazier explained that organisers have always approached the project with the intention to use external sources of funding.

He said that talks with funders have been “very positive” but they could still do with help for certain elements of the project.

They are open to local businesses getting involved to help with the project.

This could be through funding part of the construction or contributing to longer-term maintenance.

Where will the money come from?

Finding this funding will be the next big step for the project.

Managing director of the Pickaquoy Centre, James Linklater, has also been involved with bringing the plans to this point.

He gave some more detail on how the organisers are planning to find the money for the project.

He said: “The effort from Dan has been immense. None of it would be happening without him.

The Pickaquoy Centre, Kirkwall. Image: Andrew Stewart/DCT

“He’d already got funding for a feasibility study and a design specification.

“So, that’s all done, with very positive feedback on the design.

“Now, we’re looking at two or three external funding bodies. The main one is the Scottish Cycling Fund, which was announced prior to the World Cycling Championships in Glasgow.

“Both myself and Dan have been speaking with Sport Scotland for some time, regarding the project.

Demand for new Orkney cycling facility has increased as local club continues to grow

“We’re in the final stages of pulling together a funding application for that. There’s a couple of other local funds we’re looking at to try and make up the shortfall.”

While Mr Linklater didn’t give a number for the total cost of the project, he said it is “significant”.

In terms of demand for the new facility, he explained that Orkney Cycling Club has grown over the last five years.

However, he said roads in the county can be challenging for cyclists and are not the safest environment for them.

He said: “There’s been a desire for a safe environment for youngsters to learn in.

“At our campus here, through in Stromness and up at KGS they’ve been running sessions called Cycle Across which have been attracting 60 plus people.

“Dan also put out surveys that had a really good response.”

“In terms of the Picky Centre, it’s a natural fit for the facility to be adjacent to our campus.

“So we’ve been supporting Dan over the last few years, to try and drive things forward.”

“It’s been very very pleasing to get to the point we’ve got to.”

It is hoped that a drop-in session will be run at the Picky Centre within the next for months.

Members of the public will be able to go along and see what’s planned for the cycle facility.

They’ll be able to give their thoughts and find out about opportunities to get involved.