New lease of life for Herne Hill as Dulwich Estate and British Cycling agree terms

Herne Hill Good Friday track cycling general

The five-year deadlock which has held back development of London's famous but dilapidated Herne Hill Track, the last remaining venue of the 1948 Olympic Games, has ended.

Now it could soon get the face-lift it so desperately needs, a new track surface costing £300,000.

That was the big story at Monday evening's reception at London's City Hall for politicians and business leaders, following an energetic power-point presentation to raise funds and support for the Save the Velodrome Campaign given by organiser Hillary Peachey and Phillip Kelvin QC.

A close second came the news that the Herne Hill Trust has been awarded charitable status.

The deadlock has ended following an agreement being reached between the landlords The Dulwich Estate and British Cycling, on behalf of the Herne Hill Trust.

British Cycling executive Peter King, a trustee of the Herne Hill Stadium was applauded when he announced his news to a packed reception attended by such luminaries as Lord Coe, chairman of the London Olympic Games Organising Committee.

"We have recently come to an agreement about how we will eventually get a lease for 15 years, which means British Cycling will be able to release money necessary to resurface the track," King said.

The news immediately raised hopes for the next phase, to secure the £5 million needed to replace the crumbling infrastructure of this Victorian track with a new pavilion and facilities.

Cycling Weekly asked John Major, CEO of The Dulwich Estate, if these terms meant that a long term lease was close to being agreed."We're pleased to give British Cycling security of tenure to enable the track to be resurfaced," said Major.

"The next stage, hopefully, is for the pavilion building to go ahead through the Trust."There are three stages: the track to be resurfaced, the Trust to raise the funds for the pavilion and then British Cycling and the Trust together, take a lease for the long term."

Lord Coe made a flying visit to the reception, to declare his support for a project now firmly linking the future of the 1948 Olympics velodrome as 'tandem partner" with the stylish indoor palace, which is the newly completed velodrome for 2012 Olympic Games.

This is more than just a tenuous link, for the architect of the Olympic Velodrome, Mike Taylor of Hopkins Architects, has drawn up the plans for the new-look Herne Hill Stadium, too.

The track is to become a vital community asset, available for cyclists of all abilities - experienced racers to novices, including the disabled, and to act as a feeder track to the indoor Olympic Velodrome.

Star guest of the evening was Tommy Godwin, 1948 Olympic bronze medallist on Herne Hill.  "Herne Hill has played a big part in boosting Britain's Olympic and World medal hopes and can continue to do so," he said.

Other speakers included former double world champion Tony Doyle who raced and trained there. He is now heading Southwark Council's Olympic Legacy Committee. Shadow government sports minister Tessa Jowell, the MP for Dulwich, urged supporters - "Don't let bureaucracy stop this, be bloody minded. 

"This campaign has gone on too long," she added.  "But it's now caught fire as Herne Hill velodrome has been allowed to fall apart, while all the Olympic Velodrome goes up."

Kate Hoey, the Mayor of London's Commissioner for Sport, praised Hillary Peachey "for uniting the campaign." Valerie Shawcross of the Greater London Assembly also added her support.

However, all were upstaged by two youngsters, budding champions of the future perhaps - Freddie and Charlotte - who took to the stage with a light hearted sketch telling what Herne Hill meant to them.

Related links

London Olympic architect draws up plans to save Herne Hill

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Keith Bingham joined the Cycling Weekly team in the summer of 1971, and retired in 2011. During his time, he covered numerous Tours de France, Milk Races and everything in-between. He was well known for his long-running 'Bikewatch' column, and played a pivotal role in fighting for the future of once at-threat cycling venues such as Hog Hill and Herne Hill Velodrome.