BUSINESSMAN David Jennings has stepped into the row over the future of Lowercroft lodges - with a £25,000, no-strings-attached bid to buy them.

His shock offer comes after owner Keith Talbot's public "fish them or fill them" ultimatum to councillors considering his plans for commercial angling on the three picturesque Whitehead's reservoirs.

Mr Talbot says that if his plans are rejected he will not be able to afford the maintenance of these waters and will be forced to drain them and fill them. Now he has no excuse to use that threat," says the 44-year-old managing director of Walshaw-based firm UAP Ltd.

"He can sell them to me - now or later - and that will secure them for ever. I will lease them back to nominal rent of £1 a year. I will also, if necessary, underwrite the cost of maintaining them.

"If Mr Talbot is sincere about wanting to save these lodges he will accept my offer. If he does not, then people will draw their own conclusions about his long-term motives.

"I live near Lowercroft and, yes, I want to preserve a lovely view, but not just for myself and my family but for everyone else for years to come. I employ local people, I have been successful in my business and I want to give something back to the community in which I expect to spend the rest of my life."

Meanwhile Mr Talbot's plans for Lowercroft include the building of two access roads onto the site and the establishment of two car parks, as well as additional buildings related to the development of the site for commercial leisure angling. There will be provision for lodge-side pegs for disabled fishermen.

Having bought the former Elton Cop Dyeing Company lodges, he maintains that stocking them with fish and enhancing facilities there will, in turn, preserve the site substantially as it is now and stave off any threat of future housing development.

But opponents, led by the Friends of Cockey Moor, Whitehead's and Parker's Lodges Campaign Group, suspect Mr Talbot's motives. Backed by evidence from Radcliffe Angling Club, who have used the lodges for many years, they believe the waters are not commercially viable and feel the real reason for the project is to "open up" the area for eventual housing.

The Friends have fought a three-year campaign to establish Village Green status on what they see as "an area of natural beauty, a wildlife corridor and a source of pleasure and recreation for more than 50 years". They are awaiting the outcome of a public inquiry, but know that protected status as a local amenity would create grant opportunities which do not currently exist.

Mr Talbot, too, insists that consideration for the environment and the preservation of the waterways is his prime objective. But he also insists that he will be left with an expensive "white elephant" if his current plan is thrown out by councillors he will need to fill-in the lodges because, he says, no-one else would want them and he can't afford to maintain them.

Now his wish to preserve the waters of Lowercroft is being put to the test by the offer from local-boy-made-good David Jennings.

"I have a cheque for £25,000 made out to Keith Talbot. He can take it now, or wait for the outcome of his planning application, or even wait to see if his commercial fishing idea succeeds. This money is his get-out-of-jail card," said Mr Jennings, a Stand Grammar School "old boy" who lives in Bowland Close, Bury.

"As far as Mr Talbot is concerned, it's what every businessman wants . . . a win-win situation."