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When will the cyclists get adequate training facilities ?

NewteredNewteredPhoto from Londoncyclesport.com

From: Eastway, Hoghill and Royals, Londoncyclesport.com, 15 Nov 2007

Many have been asking why there are delays at Hog Hill, the interim replacement for Eastway after its destruction for the 2012 Olympics and why the Royals was not made available in 2006 for events as promised.

LCS: Is it true that the lease on Hog Hill is not signed (known to be correct as at 6 Nov 2007) which is the real reason why work is being held up, particularly on the clubhouse and services construction?

London Development Agency: No. We are currently working to broker an agreement between Crown Estates and Redbridge Council on the terms of the lease. They have already allowed us to begin preparation work on the area that was handed over by ecologists last month. We now need the Crown and Redbridge to reach agreement in principle before the Crown Estates will enable us to do more intrusive work.

LCS: The newt collection was not in operation across the whole site until 25th August 2007, instead of starting in early spring as had been promised when delivery was delayed for the 2006 collecting season. Is the LDA really that surprised to have run out of time to collect the newts before the weather turns cold?

London Development Agency: The newt relocation could not start until August because Natural England first required a survey of the population along with a relocation methodology which they then had to approve. Natural England guidance requires that surveys be carried out during the newt breeding season between mid-March and mid-June. Our licence application was approved by Natural England on 23rd July and we then began work on setting up 6.5km worth of fence to trap the newts. Trapping commenced on the 8th August.

Finding a medium population meant that there needed to be 60 good newt collecting days when all the traps were in place. A dry September and ground frost starting a month earlier than in previous years has meant ecologists have only been able to complete 41 trapping days so far.

LCS: Why did The Royals not open in Feb or March 2007?

London Development Agency: The LDA submitted a planning application for a cycling track in December 2006. Given the statutory periods set down to determine applications, we expected to have a decision in February 2007, which would have allowed a completion on site in May 2007. The application was in fact heard on 18th April, which would have meant that the circuit would not be ready until the end of July.

After consulting British Cycling, it was decided in March that it would be a better use of money to support cyclists through a variety of interim measures, rather than making a provision at the Royals which after building would only be open for three months of the cycling season. They included supporting half a dozen existing venues to expand their racing and coaching facilities, funding clubs to take on more members and employing a facility coordinator to book venues.”

Andreas Christophorou of the LDA followed up the Q and A with this comment: "We are meeting with Eastway cyclists on November 14 at the Hog Hill site to take them through where we are with the new circuit and further interim provisions we are arranging to mitigate for the newt relocation. We will also be emailing a comprehensive question and answer sheet to users to address any queries they may have about Hog Hill. These details will also be posted on our website."

For more background see: London Cyclesport and Legacy

See a July BBC report and a video by Angela Saini about the plight of Eastway cyclists.

See also: Visionary Velopark Concept Taking Shape

See also: 2012 Legacy & Hog Hill Updates

Listen to: A ride with Patrick Field around the perimeter fence of the construction site in north east London and an interview with Michael Humphreys, chair of the Eastway Users Group, on the destruction of the popular Eastway road, mountain bike and cyclo-cross circuits, the interim facilities and plans for the legacy Velopark on the Olympics site. Available from the Bike Show on Resonance FM

Recent evidence before the Department of Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee throws futher light on the current lack of training facilities for competitive cyclists.

Q2 Mike Hall, Labour MP, Weaver Vale: The Sydney Olympics were judged a success and then we got a couple more medals in Athens. If we are going to be coming fourth in 2012 and we want to be eighth next year in Beijing are these targets actually achievable?

Mr Chris Boardman, Director of Coaching and Olympic Programmes, British Cycling: I think they are very challenging. I do think they are achievable but it is going to be quite close, frankly. There is perhaps possibly an over-reliance on three sports at the moment - cycling, sailing and rowing in particular. There is a lot of expectation around those sports. That is a particular challenge for our sport.

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Q18 Alan Keen, Labour MP, Feltham & Heston: What do you really need? As far as medals are concerned you are one of the top sports, certainly in the Olympics and World Championships. What do you need to compete with swimming, rugby and football really? There is no reason why the whole population cannot have a chance to be fed through into competitive cycling. What else do you need?

Mr Boardman: Perhaps I can answer from one end and you can answer from the other. From the performance perspective coaching-wise and everything else, we have got what we need now. What we are really short of probably, certainly not what you want to hear, are facilities. We have got two facilities, and they are fantastic and working at capacity but we are competing for space on the Manchester track with the Olympic team training and the local schools. You want to serve both and we cannot do it. We have facilities but they are working at capacity which is great but that is one thing that we need.

Mr King: It is facilities all the way down, actually. It is not just facilities for the elite to train on, but facilities for people you see riding down the streets and the kids coming out of the schools, to actually go and cycle somewhere safely. We have very, very few closed road circuits, off-road circuits, even outdoor tracks. We use all that we have to the full. Unfortunately we are the one sport that has suffered because of the London 2012 Games because we have lost the most heavily-used facility we had which is now being redeveloped.

That is fine because, going back to your earlier question, for us the Olympic Games is absolutely fundamental. London 2012 is the biggest opportunity we will have in our lifetime to take sport out to the people and change the whole culture which surrounds it. We are very up for doing that and we know there are more people riding bikes today than there are swimming or running, so we have a bigger pool of available talent than probably any of the other sports; it is just how we tap that and bring them into our sphere of influence.
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Q43 Philip Davies, Consevative MP, Shipley: Chris, could I just bring in cycling because you seemed to have mentioned earlier and I got the impression that you were partly pinning your hopes on better facilities leading to more participation in cycling. We have been round different places that have hosted the Olympics and seen some fantastic facilities which are like Dodge City, where nobody uses them and they have just become huge financial white elephants. Why should it be any different in this country providing great facilities where nobody uses them? Providing facilities does not seem in itself to provide a legacy of participation in sport.

Mr Boardman: There are a couple of aspects to this. I actually reviewed our talent process in 2004 and one of the things I identified as part of the six-month study was right at the bottom end, the people we are talking about trying to attract here, there had to be something in it for them. To be involved in a child's life at the time they start to form peer groups you have to have an activity that is at least once a week, preferably three times a week to be part of their social structure, and their parents.

We cannot do that with two facilities in the country. If you want to look specifically at facilities, those two facilities are working at capacity so that is the best advert you can have really for saying that we need another one. It is a great problem to have. There are 500 metres of Olympic standard cycle track in this country and that is it for everybody to use. There are outdoor facilities and we make the absolute most of those, but it is very, very different.

There are a number of different strands. Really I could throw it back to Government and say that the one thing our sport needs that is fairly unique is we need roads to ride on that are safe to do so, and ones where you would say to your kids, "Yes, that's fine, you go down the shop through the local village on your bike". That is going to be an increasing challenge. I feel we are doing our part. We have actually created some great club links now, we have those things and they are working. We have actually got really good people for the first time as well all the way throughout who can actually work with the clubs, and that part is working, but we still need to use the roads.

Extracts from uncorrected evidence before the: DCMS Select Committee 20 November 2007


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