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Topic - Harrison’s Rocks - BMC position & update

Dave Turnbull, BMC - on 30 Oct 2013
The purpose of this note is to provide an update on the current situation regarding the Harrison’s Rocks toilet block, car park and campsite. A lot has been written on the subject lately so hopefully it will be useful to have some clarity.

The BMC has owned Harrison’s Rocks (i.e. the cliff faces) and a parcel of surrounding woodland since 2007. The car park and toilet block is owned by the Forestry Commission (FC), has been leased to Sport England for at least the last 25 years and is managed by the BMC under a formal management agreement with Sport England. The lease expires in November 2014 and Sport England does not intend to renew it; responsibility for the site will revert to the FC at that stage.

The BMC (via Access Officer - Rob Dyer and members of the Harrison’s Rocks Management Group, HRMG) has been in discussion with Sport England and the FC on the future of the site for the past 2-3 years. Our starting point has always been that the car park is a vital facility for climbers and that we would also like the toilet block to remain open as this is an important facility for visitors and campsite users. Sport England is sympathetic to our position and is prepared to fund repairs to the toilet block – but only if the FC (or an associated body) is prepared to take on the long term management of the facility.

Due to the current economic climate the FC has unfortunately informed us it is unable to keep the toilet block going when the lease expires. As a result it intends to demolish the toilet block and remove the campsite. The FC also plans to modify the car park to make is easier to maintain; whilst the overall size of the car park would be reduced the FC considers that total number of parking spaces could be retained. Sport England has said it would be prepared for its funding to be used for car park (as opposed to the toilet block) if a future for the toilet block cannot be secured.

One option which is under consideration at present is a possible community asset transfer (i.e. an arrangement through which land or buildings is transferred into the ownership or management of a Voluntary and Community Sector organisation or statutory body). This has been suggested by local resident Richard Fox and a meeting between the Forestry Commission, Sport England, Withyham Parish Council and the BMC / HRMG is taking place on 4 November to consider it in more detail. If this is successful Sport England has said it would be prepared to carry out full repair work on the toilet block.

The BMC very much appreciates that Harrison's hold a special place in the hearts of climbers and we can assure people we will do whatever we can to encourage the authorities to look positively on measures to secure the long term future of the car park, toilet block and camp site at crag.

Dave Turnbull
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