New plans threaten to delay 2013 opening of Olympic Legacy Velopark

London velopark

New plans aimed at enhancing the Olympic park post 2012 Games, threaten to derail the approved planning application for the Olympic Velopark, Britain's biggest £multi-million cycling development and central to Olympic boss Lord Coe's promise to provide Britain with a lasting sporting legacy.

The issue, first raised on this website last November, could delay the return of the Eastway cycle circuit to Hackney, ripped out to make way for the Olympic Park. The return of Eastway remains the priority for the Eastway Users Group (EUG).

EUG claim to have seen information which has confirmed that the threat to the 2012 Olympic Legacy Velopark road race circuit is real. A significant section of the course which crosses the River Lea is now required to be moved.

A spokeswoman for the Olympic Planning Legacy Company confirmed by phone to Cycling Weekly today, that they wanted the road circuit moved to make better use of the parkland.

She claimed that plans for a newly routed course would provide a circuit of the same length, of about a mile. She said the changes would cause no delay to the existing completion date, May 2013.

This story was first raised by Cycling Weekly last November following a tip off from EUG chair Michael Humphreys in October and from BC executive Peter King who told us that Hackney wanted the land for housing. The borough denied this.

Michael Humphreys, chair of EUG, says housing is indicated on plans and although it does not impinge on the current layout which was given planning approval last August, his concern is that the development could expand.

The Lee Valley Park Regional Authority who will manage the Velopark post Olympic Games are opposed to changes to the Velopark plans which would delay the opening.

Vivien Blacker, Corporate Director, Parklands and Venues at Lee Valley Regional Park Authority, issued the following statement which, though appearing to remain politically on side, seeks to tie OPLC to the agreed time scale for delivery of the circuit.

"The Authority appreciates the OPLC's overall ambitions for the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, recognises that a number of sporting, social and economic outcomes will need to be delivered and will work with the OPLC as it develops an alternative Road Circuit design and location."

"The Authority expects however that the outcome of this work would be a world class circuit supported by both cyclists and British Cycling, the national governing body for cycling in the UK, and delivered in accordance with the original timeframe."

If OPLC have their way, says Humphreys, the cycle circuit could go from being first in the queue of legacy projects to being last. One of the biggest concerns was, and will be again if the circuit is to be moved, was how to provide a secure, safe and attractive racing circuit free of casual public intrusion.

"Eastway Users' Group has asked for more detail on the project's funding and phasing, but so far has had no answer. It took from September until early December for the committee to get to see or discuss the OPLC's preferred plans in any form," Humphreys' said.

Humphreys is anxious that all the cycling groups can "make common cause on engaging with the OPLC."

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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.