Dare we speculate, on the fifth anniversary of the infamous Herne Hill Stadium lockout, that the century old track might at last be granted a new lease of life?
It was February 2005 when the owners Dulwich Estate refused to renew the lease to Southwark Council. It led to the lock out and the launch of the Herne Hill Campaign to get the track reopened.
Although negotiations succeeded in reopening the century-old track, and Dulwich Estate finally agreed to grant an annual lease to VC Londres to manage the stadium on behalf of British Cycling, the future has remained uncertain.
Hanging over everything has been wish of Dulwich to let the site for a Leisure Complex, but allowed operating rights for cycling to continue.
As a result, the only surviving arena from the 1948 London Olympic Games is in a poor state, the track surface just about useable.
But infrastructure, including the Victorian Grandstand, has fallen into ruin, providing a ghostly backdrop to the events, which still take place. The annual Good Friday International is the top event, and there is the Monday Comp and a thriving Summer School at weekends, attracting 100s of riders of all ages.
Herne Hill users perhaps despair of British Cycling ever being allowed to redevelop the stadium and will probably and rightfully, remain sceptical that Dulwich Estate may at last be close to a deal. But when Cycling Weekly called John Major, CEO of Dulwich Estates this morning, he indicated there might be a way forward.
“We have asked architects to look at the site. They will provide second opinion on need for secondary access.”
And if they don’t think it is needed, that opens the way for British Cycling to press their case to be buy a long lease.
The issue of secondary access has been the sticking point, because the lease for the slim piece of land, which was once the main entrance, remains with Southwark, who want a King’s ransom to release it.
British Cycling has repeatedly said they will not need secondary access but Dulwich Estate remains unsure, and think planning application might require it.
Even the influence of local MP Tessa Jowell has been unable to end the deadlock. “It has been painfully slow,” agrees Major.
Although the original developer acting for a leisure complex has dropped out, Major says he is still ” in favour of a leisure complex-cycling mix.”
He said he was hopeful of an end to the deadlock, aware of cycling’s wish to acquire longer lease in order to redevelop cycling site, rescue the ruined main stand which is currently unsafe to use.