Beloved horse riding centre is a 'lifeline' for kids - but they fear it is about to be destroyed

A Fylde horse riding centre has been described as a 'lifeline' for local children - but it could be forced to close if controversial wind farm plans go ahead.

A 'cable corridor' described by locals as 'wider than the M55' is set to be established, connecting two proposed wind farms in the Irish Sea to an existing electricity substation in Penwortham. This will provide green energy for the future - but the proposals have proven to be controversial with residents and businesses in Fylde.

Although locals told LancsLive they aren't against new forms of energy, the plans to 'rip through' much of the Fylde Coast green belt and countryside is proving to be the issue. Two substations in Kirkham and Newton are also set to be built - one of which could be the size of 13 football pitches and over 23 metres in height.

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Opened 43 years ago, Wrea Green Equitation Centre (WGEC) has been an institution of the Fylde, but its owners fear it will be forced to close its doors if the plans go ahead.

Chris Pollitt runs the centre and told LancsLive a compound could be built next door to her centre, causing distress and disruption for the animals she cares for. As a result, the riding school will have to close its doors for good due to the "risk factor" for the horses.

Parents of children who attend the riding school are desperate for it to remain open. Leanne Bottomley has a 14-year-old son Cameron who attends WGEC three days a week instead of school. She says he has complex needs and doesn't work well with attending school.

"Wrea Green is Cameron's safe place," Leanne told LancsLive. "He's a completely different child when he's there.

"It's equine therapy, that's what he uses it as. He only does two to three hours a week at school, on a Tuesday and Wednesday and you can't get anymore out of him.

"When he's at Wrea Green, he leaves my house at quarter to nine in the morning and he doesn't come home until 2.30pm. Then, my son is a completely chilled out child, he's completely different."

As Cameron struggles to conform to traditional classroom settings, Leanne says the horse riding centre is the teenager's lifeline. She added: "He's unpredictable, so he's got autistic traits and he's got ADHD as well. He's got a few other things, like attachment disorder as well and they're going for ODD, Oppositional Defiant Disorder. He can't make the right choices.

"There [WGEC], they don't force him to make the right choices, but he understands why they do it." Leanne says her son is aware of the potential closure of the centre, but if it does go ahead "his world would be over".

The mum continued: "There's been times I've got a call from school because he's been restrained. We then spoke with Chris and Kirsty from Horsepower who have brought him out of his meltdowns."

Supporting Leanne and other children at the centre is Shaan Wallace, who is the Academic Tutor and Mentor for Armfield Academy and supports students to improve academic achievements and overall wellbeing. Not only does she support a number of students including Cameron, but her own child, 12-year-old Gracie also attends the riding school.

Talking about her daughter's needs, Shaan said: "She's not SEN in any way involving her school work, it's more her emotional regulation she struggles with. The horses, because they don't answer back, she has that lovely relationship and just seems to connect with the animals.

"Gracie is quite quiet and reserved at school, but in the yard she's still quiet but she interacts with the girls, leaders and takes instruction. It gives me a little bit of a brain break so she isn't attached at the hip."

Much like the other parents, Shaan sees WGEC as a hugely important aspect of her daughter's life, as well as other children. "She's always been a quiet child, even through school and even with family member she struggles to communicate," Shaan added.

"It's not that she can't, she just doesn't know how. She was struggling to find herself at Primary School and then she got bullied and it set her back. Her emotional maturity was pushed back, it was hindered because of the bullying.

"Going to the horses, she didn't have to speak to anybody initially, it was just about having a calm and quiet environment. She can't cope with noise. At home there's noise, at school there's noise."

Shaan added: "To see what the wind farms are doing to the business, it's absolutely devastating."

Jessica Hilton's daughter is 11-year-old Sophie who lives with a vision impairment. Six years ago, Sophie attended WGEC for the first time and "instantly developed a passion for it."

Now, she's there every Saturday, after school on a Wednesday and in the school holidays to take part in Pony Club. Unfortunately, this could all come to an end.

"We always thought the stables would be there when she is a teenager and it would be great for her social and emotional wellbeing," Jessica told LancsLive. "As well as her physical wellbeing.

"The thought that it might not be there when she's a teenager and she won't get a chance to go and help or be there at the weekend would just be really upsetting." Jessica says Sophie has always taken to animals and once she'd started horse riding, she hasn't stopped.

Sophie's vision impairment is described by Jessica as a "low incidence and isolating disability". She says children and young people with the disability are more likely to suffer with depression and anxiety, with those aged from eight to 11 three times more likely to develop a mental health problem.

"I think because she struggled a lot at school, especially with anything sporty or involving a team sport, she really struggles with," Jessica said on her daughter's vision impairment. "She can't see any fast moving balls or anything like that.

"But she's really good at it [horse riding], she's made loads of friends there and she's just so confident when she's there. She learns by touch, so she can just tap up and put a bridle on by touch.

"If you go in the indoor arena, there's letters all around the outside but Sophie couldn't see the letters so they put big illuminous colour boards over the letters, so she could see the colours - it would go green to pink.

"She knows where they are now, just from memory, but it's little things like that that allow her to fit in. The only time she isn't at the stables on the weekend is when we're on holiday.

"She loves it there, I just can't imagine her not being able to go to the stables."

In a letter to the incumbent MP for Fylde Mark Menzies, Jessica wrote: "It is her happy place. Everybody at WGEC have been so supportive and accommodating to Sophie right from the start.

"It is safe space for Sophie to be independent, exercise and feel totally included. Sophie struggles with joining in with PE lesson in school and can feel isolated as she can cannot play the games as competently as her peers, but at the stables I have seen her flourish in confidence with absolutely no barriers."

The letter adds: "As these children move to teenage years the risk increases. Social support, physical exercise, independence and mobility are crucial for enhancing mental health. This is where WGEC is a lifeline for Sophie."

Sophie is a member of the Pony Club and attends WGEC during the school holidays, working towards her next badge after recently receiving her Grooming accolade. Closing the letter, Jessica wrote: "If WGEC closed it would be absolutely devastating to Sophie, us as a family, the disabled community, equestrians and of course Chris, the coaches and all who work and help out at the stables.

"I am absolutely certain that attending WGEC has had an overwhelming positive impact on Sophie’s confidence and mental wellbeing. Not to have the riding school in Sophies future, especially going into her teenage years would be devastating and can only have a negative impact.

"Please can the concerns all at WGEC and the local and wider community be really taken into account and listened to. The Stables can not close, it is clear to see the passion and love that drives this riding school. WGEC really make a difference to peoples lives here."

A spokesperson for Morecambe and Morgan said: "The Morgan Offshore Wind Project and the Morecambe Offshore Windfarm are two proposed offshore wind farms being developed in the Irish Sea. The two offshore wind farms intend to make an important contribution to the UK's target of generating 50GW of power from offshore wind by 2030.

"Combined they have the potential to generate almost 2GW of electricity - enough to power the equivalent of around two million homes. Since 2022, our project teams have held three rounds of consultation (both non-statutory and statutory) and we recognise that public consultation is a vital process, which gives the local community an opportunity to review our proposals, ask us questions and provide their feedback.

"All feedback we have received has been considered to date and helped inform our design process. We understand there are local concerns, and these will be addressed in due course. We intend to provide a further update on our plans over the coming months, before we submit our application, later in the year."