A PROTEST ride and rally will take place on Saturday over claims a Ryedale company has been treated unfairly in losing a contract to run Dalby Forest’s cafe and bike hire centre.

Purple Mountain said it has been given less than a month’s notice to wind up the business, which involves making staff redundant, after the Forestry Commission announced that a deal has been struck with Pace Cycles, also based locally, in partnership with the CTC and Eurest Services to operate the centre and cafe.

Last Friday, Purple Mountain directors Ruth and Vicky Griffin met Caroline Spelman, Secretary of State for the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, to discuss the issues.

“We came out of the meeting feeling upbeat and felt that taking things to the top maybe on this occasion what you have to do,” Vicky said. “The Forestry Commission cannot be seen to get away with this behaviour. We assure you this is definitely not a matter of sour grapes – it is a very serious issue surrounding probity and honesty.

“We believe the tender process for the Bike Centre and Cafe have been carried out in bad faith and process has not been followed.”

Vicky said that more than 1,000 people had signed an online petition of support for the company.

“This Saturday will see the public voicing their concern by way of a protest ride and rally, which will leave the Forestry Commission offices in Pickering at 10.30am and will ride to Purple Mountain Cafe in Dalby Courtyard. Those who don’t wish to ride can join the protest rally in the courtyard. Everyone is welcome to come down and have their say.”

A spokesman for the Forestry Commission said: “That’s a matter entirely for them – we are satisfied that the tendering process was both fair and rigorous. We received many excellent proposals to run the two business opportunities offered in Dalby and each was scored using the same criteria by a panel for four senior Forestry Commission managers.

Inevitably there are winners and losers.

“The Forestry Commission office in Pickering has already asked for an internal review of the tendering process to confirm that procedures were followed.”