Plans to create a £1.4 million cycling facility in the heart of England have moved a step closer following recent funding approvals.
The centre, to be based in the National Forest environmental project covering parts of Derbyshire, Staffordshire and Leicestershire, is likely to be located on the site of a former opencast coal mine to the east of Donisthorpe.
The land has been restored, with 80 hectares now a mix of woodland planting, conservation grasslands and wetland habitats and public access available to walkers, cyclists and horse riders.
The designs for the centre are still to be finalised, but there is optimism that the project will now come to fruition.
Alan Leather, funding and partnerships officer at the National Forest Company, said: "It’s positive news for cycling within the Forest as recent funding approvals mean that the dream of a cycling centre within the heart of the forest area now moves a step closer to becoming a reality.
"Consultations are now taking place to enable final designs to be produced. This is good news for those looking for a safe yet exciting place to ride their bikes."
A Forestry Commission report from last year outlines the potential of the site for investment.
It said: "Much of the 83-hectare area is already established by the previous owner, UK Coal, and has very good linkages to other commission and privately owned woodland nearby.
"It will provide a significant recreation resource for these local ex-mining villages."
The proposals are also backed by the Ashby area cycling network plan compiled by North West Leicestershire District Council.
It said: "The landscapes of Ashby Woulds, for long scarred by mining, quarrying and related activities, are now evolving to serve a future built around light industry, forestry and the service sector, particularly tourism.
"As coal, clay and landfill sites are worked-out, policies applied by district and county planning services and by the National Forest Company are creating new patterns of access on a scale elsewhere only normally achieved by new town commissions."