Fears over future of Cumbria outdoor centres

First published in News The Westmorland Gazette: Photograph of the Author by , Reporter

ONE in three outdoor learning centres in Cumbria could be at risk of closing because of government cutbacks.

A national petition, which has more than 5,000 signatures, is to be handed to the government in a bid to persuade ministers to keep the centres open.

There are estimated to be approximately 35 outdoor centres operating in Cumbria.

Councils from as far away as Birmingham, Manchester and the North East own and run some of them and decisions on whether they close are up to each council.

Lanehead Outdoor Centre in Coniston, which was run by a collaboration of four North East councils including the boroughs of Middlesbrough, Stockton on Tees, Redcar and Cleveland, and Hartlepool, has already succumbed to the cuts.

“Instead of these centres shutting, the complete opposite should be happening”, said Colin Mortlock, creator of the Spirit of Adventure Foundation, a Kendal-based charity aiming to get young people outdoors. “All children have a pent-up energy and excitement as an instinct, and there needs to be socially acceptable outlets for that despite all the computer games and technology that we have today.

“I’m worried about what is going to happen to children if they don’t have the ability to be adventurous.”

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But it is not all bad news. The Brathay Trust charity at Ambleside recently struck a partnership deal with Wigan Council over the running of Low Bank Ground in Coniston. It means that children from the Greater Manchester town will still come up to the Lake District to use the centre, while reducing the costs to Wigan Council.

This was a model which should be used to keep more centres from closure, according to Andy Robinson, CEO of the Institute for Outdoor Learning.

He added that shutting outdoor learning centres could also have an adverse affect on tourism.

“If we want the next generation of tourists, one of the greatest ways we get them in is by children visiting the Lake District from a residential event and coming back in later life.”

To sign the petition go to epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/26661

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