Housing development is threatening to derail plans 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, threatens to 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 privately circulated 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 required to be moved to allow riverside development.
Michael Humphreys, chair of EUG, in a widely circulated email to EUG members, says:
"Since September the Olympic Park Legacy Company (OPLC) has privately circulated information about a scheme which removes the road circuit to make way for a high-value housing development on the West side of the River Lea, where previously the plans showed landscaped open parkland."
This story was first raised by Cycling Weekly last November following a tip off from EUG chair Michael Humphrey in October and from BC executive Peter King who told us that Hackney wanted the land for housing. The borough denied this.
The Lee Valley Park Regional Authority who will manage the Velopark post Olympic Games are opposed to any changes to the Velopark plans which gained planning approval last August.
Today, 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. Impossible, if it is moved.
"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."
Which is for the Velopark to open by May 2013.
If OPLC have their way, says Humphreys, the cycle circuit could go from being first in the queue of legacy projects to being last.
"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.
"The Group was the first to alert British Cycling during late November. BC has only lately been separately invited to give its view on the circuit's suitability. This alert was made with a view to making 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.
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