The countdown has begun to the possible sale or transfer of some of the county’s finest rural assets – a portfolio of 93 countryside sites currently owned by Lancashire County Council.
The list includes such jewels in the crown as Beacon Fell and Wycoller Country parks .
This week the council announced it had received 19 “expressions of interest” to run parts of its doomed countryside estate following its decision to axe the council’s countryside service by April 2018 to save £440,000 a year.
Now it is giving organisations interested in owning or managing sites four weeks to submit detailed applications containing information about their aims, objectives, finances, skills, experience and how their proposals will benefit the community. A council spokesman said: “We want people to be able to continue to access the sites and enjoy them as they currently do without the county council bearing the cost of maintaining them. We are looking for organisations who might be prepared to take them on. We’re not on an exercise selling off in order to subsidise other services.”
The council has had talks with 12 district councils, 25 parish and town councils and 19 other organisations, including several charitable trusts.
Cabinet member County Coun Marcus Johnstone said Government funding cuts and rising demand for services mean the cuts had to be made. But he hoped organisations would: “come forward with firm proposals which will allow us to consider transferring these sites to them for the future benefit of the Lancashire community ... The last thing we want to do is close or stop maintaining them.”
Tory Coun Geoff Driver saidthe sites should not pass to private ownership for profit.