Where are the promised replacement facilities for London’s Eastway? This was the question put by three 14-year-old Olympic Talent Team members to the mayor of London at a People’s Question Time held on Thursday October 25. After excuses about the newt problems at the Hog Hill site in Redbridge, the mayor was forced to admit that he could give the riders “no immediate answers”.
The closure of Eastway at the end of the 2006 season was a great blow to London’s cyclists, but in particular to the car-less youth and junior riders who used the circuit for training as well as racing. Lea Valley Youth Cycling Club was based at Eastway and has produced three of the current Olympic Talent Team members.
When Eastway was officially closed, riders were promised that a replacement facility at Hog Hill in Redbridge would be available in April 2007. When a newt colony was discovered on the site, this date had to be delayed, and an interim replacement at the Royal Albert Docks in Docklands was proposed, although this never materialised.
In the meantime, the promised post-Olympic legacy has been gradually downgraded from a Velopark with provision for the Olympic sports of road racing, track, BMX and mtb cross-country, as well as cycle speedway,
covering 34 hectares, to a shadow of that on a site of just seven hectares, tagged onto a housing estate with little provision for mountain bikers.
The London Development Agency has committed to having the Hog Hill site up and running by March 2008, although it seems that only a tiny part of the circuit will be ready.
London’s mountain bikers are rapidly losing faith in the authorities’ abilities to provide a suitable mountain biking venue to replace Eastway — and don’t get us started on the proposed Olympic XC venue in Essex.
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