Scrambler crash tragedy sparks calls for purpose-built off-road facility

Efforts are being made to secure the development of a purpose-built off-road motorsports facility in the Lisburn area.

Ryan Phillips.

The move comes just days after the tragic death of a young man in a scrambler crash at the weekend.

Ryan Phillips, from the White Mountain Road area, died after he was involved in a collision involving two off-road motorbikes on Sunday evening (February 19). His funeral is due to be held in Lambeg today (Thursday).

An 18-year-old man was also injured in the incident, which occurred on a laneway near Sprucefield park and ride. His injuries aren’t believed to be life-threatening.

Floral tributes have been laid close to the lane at Sprucefield where Ryan Phillips was killed on Sunday evening. Picture by Arthur Allison, Pacemaker Press.

In the wake of Sunday’s tragedy, concerns have been raised that off-road motorsports enthusiasts are putting their lives at risk due to a lack of official facilities. And there have been a number of calls for a properly regulated off-road motorsports facility to be developed in the Lisburn and Castlereagh district.

Stressing that action is needed to avoid a repeat of Sunday’s terrible incident, Councillor Luke Poots revealed that he is in talks with a motorsports organisation about the possible creation of an official track in the local area.

Describing Mr Phillips’ death as “absolutely awful”, Councillor Poots expressed his condolences to his family.

And the DUP man has warned that more lives could be lost in future if proper off-road motorsports facilities aren’t provided.

Floral tributes have been laid close to the lane at Sprucefield where Ryan Phillips was killed on Sunday evening. Picture by Arthur Allison, Pacemaker Press.

“We had a good track at Nutts Corner that Antrim Council closed down. There was a track for beginners and a track for more experienced people. We used to have two tracks in Lisburn as well and now we’ve nothing,” he said.

Cllr Poots, who describes himself as “a motorsports enthusiast”, continued: “I’m meeting with a senior motorsport group who are looking to lodge a planning application for a purpose-built motocross track in the Lisburn area.”

While unable to name the organisation behind the bid, or say where exactly the track might be located, Cllr Poots said he plans to meet the motorsport group next month and then seek the council’s backing for the project after that.

The DUP man says the provision of an official facility could help prevent further tragedies.

“I believe that a purpose-built track would increase the safety of people that are motocross enthusiasts,” he added.

Echoing those views, his party colleague, Alderman James Tinsley commented: “I feel this is something we should be looking at alongside the private sector. For years unauthorised tracks have popped up around Lisburn and that shows there is a real interest in the sport. I would like to see one good, safe, regularised track.”

Speaking about Sunday’s tragic incident, Mayor Brian Bloomfield commented: “The council was dismayed to learn of the death of Ryan Phillips and our thoughts and condolences are with his family and friends at this desperately difficult time.”

Asked if council would consider developing a proper track for scrambler and quad users, a statement issued on his behalf by the council said: “The provision of a facility for off road vehicles either directly or in partnership is not a matter that has been considered to date by the council.”

Cllr Tim Morrow, Chairman of the council’s Leisure and Community Services Committee, described Mr Phillips’ death as “a tragedy for the family” and “an awful waste of life”.

He confirmed that the committee hasn’t received any proposals for developing a track in the area, but stressed that any such proposal brought before members would be given “careful consideration”.

Cllr Morrow stressed that there are significant liability and insurance issues, as well as other factors such as noise nuisance, which would need to be considered before any track development was given the green light.