ILLEGAL off-road biking is plaguing a community three years on from a ‘horror crash’ in the area.

In June 2020, a seven-year-old boy and a 34-year-old man were seriously injured in a quad bike smash at Bickershaw Country Park off Crankwood Road in Leigh. Mountain Rescue and an air ambulance had to be called to the scene which left both seriously injured.

Three years later, the issue of dirt bikers tearing up restricted spots of green space across the borough Wigan is still rife, according to Coun Dane Anderton.

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Leigh Journal: The motion was put forward by Councillor Dane Anderton at a Wigan Council meetingThe motion was put forward by Councillor Dane Anderton at a Wigan Council meeting (Image: LDRS)

Proposing a motion to clamp down on the issue at the latest council meeting in Wigan Town Hall, Coun Anderton said he wants to see the illegal practice stopped.

For the sake of environmental preservation, health and safety, noise pollution and criminal damage – Coun Anderton called for the council to support Greater Manchester Police as they crack down on the issue across the borough.

“Motor vehicles, by their nature, are powerful vehicles that require responsible handling,” Coun Anderton said. “Having their use in public green spaces like country parks where pedestrians and other park visitors frequent raises serious safety concerns. 

“The potential for accidents, collisions, and injuries significantly increases, posing a threat to the well-being of our community. There have been a number of incidents with dogs being injured and verbal abuse given to residents who ask the vehicles handlers to leave or be careful.”

Leigh Journal: Police presence at the scene of the Bickershaw Country ParkPolice presence at the scene of the Bickershaw Country Park (Image: GMP)

In June 2020, there was a major incident at Bickershaw Country Park when a rider came off their bike on the rucks (old slag heaps). They had a seven-year-old child on board and both were seriously injured. 

“It took medical teams over three hours to get to them off Crankwood Road as the terrain was difficult and standard response vehicles are not equipped to handle it. Mountain rescue had to attend,” Coun Anderton said.

The portfolio holder for Police, Crime and Civil Contingencies went on to ask for council to implement measures that ‘clearly prohibit the access of these vehicles on canal paths and in country parks within our jurisdiction’.

Concluding his motion, which received unanimous support from the chamber, Coun Anderton said: “I firmly believe that by taking decisive action to prevent as best we can this illegal activity in our green spaces, we can maintain the integrity of our natural areas, promote public safety, and provide a more harmonious recreational environment for all.”

Leigh Journal: The off road bikes have been a nuisance for years in LeighThe off road bikes have been a nuisance for years in Leigh (Image: GMP)

The scale of the problem was made evident as Coun Jenny Gregory described dirt bikers recklessly driving around council estates in her ward of Lowton East. When challenged, the balaclava-cladded rider became threatening, councillors heard. 

Coun Paul Prescott shared his own story of his brother-in-law, who died as a result of a motorbike crash. 

“He had returned from active service in Northern Ireland,” Coun Prescott exaplined. “He died on Christmas Day shortly after the incident. 

“Motorbikes are dangerous if they’re not used in the right areas. We need to make sure they’re used in the proper manner. 

“I believe the thrill is breaking the law and getting away with it. It is about people being irresponsible and selfish.”

Coun Prescott claimed that the thrill of breaking the law was the reason Coun Bob Brierley’s suggestion of an allocated space for motocross riders would work to prevent the problem. However Coun Brierley, despite recognising the problem, did not believe this could be stopped.

“I think you’ve got a big task,” Coun Brierley said. “Off-roading is natural and with these E-bikes you’ve got no chance. 

“They’re frightening these E-bikes. Now with all this electric stuff you don’t have a cat in hell’s chance of stopping this. 

“Get a designated place where they can go. Find a bit of land for them and get it organised.”

On a problem that has been ongoing for decades in the borough, according to councillors, Coun Anderton explained he did not expect the problem to be sorted quickly, but he wants to see action. 

“If you are thinking of using an off-road vehicle in this boroughs’ green spaces, think again,” he said. “Off road activity in our public and protected green spaces is not welcomed, find somewhere else where it is safe, legal and supported.”