Delays to start of lessons at Morpeth Riding for the Disabled group's new home

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A county councillor has praised the work of Northumberland’s Riding for the Disabled (RDA) group but bemoaned a gap in provision when it transfered from one organisation to the other.

The Morpeth branch of the RDA was previously operated by Active Northumberland, the company that operates leisure services in the county on behalf of the council.

However, when it was decided that Active should focus more on its “core offering”, the service was moved to Kirkley Hall near Ponteland and placed under the stewardship of Northumberland College.

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The lease at the previous site at Pegasus Tranwell expired in May 2022, and riding lessons are still yet to begin due to delays with disclosure and barring service (DBS) checks.

The Northumberland College Equestrian Centre is located at the Kirkley Hall campus.The Northumberland College Equestrian Centre is located at the Kirkley Hall campus.
The Northumberland College Equestrian Centre is located at the Kirkley Hall campus.

At a recent meeting of the council’s family and children’s services overview and scrutiny committee, Coun Anne Dale, who represents Stocksfield, said the previous site should not have closed until the new site was ready.

She said: “I just feel sorry for those children who haven’t been able to take part. When we agreed it, it was going to be a seamless transition,

“All the way through there have been problems. When you’re dealing with children with disabilities, there needs to be consistency.

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“We should make sure that everything is put in place before something is closed. I don’t know whether you could have extended the lease or whatever.

“It’s great, I’ve seen kids that it does so much good for them. My recommendation would be that if we are dealing with this, can we make sure all the agreements are in place and everything has been done before everything stops.”

The council’s senior manager of education development, Neil Doward, pointed out that it was a new venture for the college and it wanted to ensure everything was done correctly, but added that “lessons will be learnt” from the process.

Many of the Morpeth RDA group’s 100-plus riders have participated in national RDA events with considerable success.

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The dedicated equestrian educational centre at Kirkley Hall includes two indoor arenas, one international-standard, two outdoor arenas, a significant range of stabling and other associated facilities.

The centre at Tranwell is continuing to operate as a private livery yard.