THE Ministry of Defence (MoD) has been criticised for increasing its charges for the use of land for a motorcycle trial to raise funds for injured servicemen.
Community leaders and Darlington and District Motor Club members said they had been astonished by the MoD upping its charge by 50 per cent for motorcycle triallists taking part in the third annual Help For Heroes Trial event, near Catterick Garrison.
Organiser Colin Ayre said the event, which takes months to organise and involves dozens of volunteers, had raised £4,500 for the charity over the past three years, during which time the MoD had charged him £1,750 to use its military training area at Downholme Moor.
Some 100 riders are charged £20 to compete on the nine-mile course, of which £5 is spent on insurance and £7.50 is paid to the MoD. The rest, together with any donations received on the day, goes to the charity's Phoenix House Recovery Centre, in Catterick Garrison.
After touring the centre and presenting the funds, Mr Ayre said he was bitterly disappointed not to be able to provide more funding from the event.
He said: "I have not spoken to anyone who didn't think the situation was barking mad.
"What is £750 to the MoD compared to the difference it will make for people in Phoenix House?
"We see soldiers around Catterick Garrison with limbs missing and doing this is our way of showing our support for them.
"Everybody offers to help to run the event and wants to participate in the trial because it is for a local Help For Heroes cause, but they simply can't believe we are charged for it.
"They don't do anything to help us, there's no preparation of the land before or after."
Richmondshire District Council leader Councillor John Blackie, whose ward includes Downholme, said he was appalled the MoD was charging anything to host the event.
He said: "It is absolutely amazing that the MoD is taking money away from people who were injured while working under the MoD's auspices."
An MoD spokesperson said any organisation wanting to use MoD land for casual use was charged in order to recover its costs for the taxpayer.
He said: "There has been a small increase in the amount charged to use the training area in order to bring the rate in line with national commercial levels.
"All charity events are subject to the same requirement for a fee to be charged."