Times sportswriter Simon Barnes denounces Derby cycle track

The Times journalist hits out at Derby Council’s ‘possibly illegal’ plans to destroy a nature reserve to make way for a cycle track, harsh words for British Cycling too

by Elliot Johnston   February 17, 2014  

Pride Park Velodrome - next door to The Sanctuary reserve (image CC licensed via Flickr user Arnos Grove)

Chief sports writer at The Times, Simon Barnes, has expressed his outrage at Derby council’s decision to approve plans for a cycle track on a Local Nature Reserve (LNR), in his weekly wildlife column.

Derby council’s announcement last week, that the much criticised plans to build a cycle track on The Sanctuary bird reserve would go ahead, came up against protests from a number of local conservation groups, as well as a last-ditch petition.

Now Barnes has joined those protesting calls in his column titled 'The great shame about Derby’s Pride Park'. In the column he slams the council’s inability to consider the wider context of their decisions, British Cycling, and the potential precedent that allowing the destruction of an LNR could set on a national scale.

He wrote: “It goes against their own policy. It is possibly also illegal.

“It is certainly the first time that a local council has given permission to destroy a Local Nature Reserve.

“The council, though mired in its own parochialism, may not just be setting a precedent but also dictating national policy. The Sanctuary was a protected site: and now it’s been unprotected. So perhaps all such sites are now unprotected.”

The 2008 sports columnist of the year winner also derided British Cycling for their support and agreement to part-fund the development which he likened to a “cyclist running a red light.”

“British Cycling agreed to part-fund the cycle-track - but, the council understood, only if it was next to the sports-centre/velodrome,” Barnes wrote.

“In other words, we’ll give out the money, but only if you trash the nature reserve.

“Cycling prides itself on being greener than thou: well, forget that. This development is like a cyclist running a red light.”

Barnes, however, was quick to highlight that the confrontation was not a matter of cycling versus wildlife.

“No one is opposing high-speed cycle tracks. It’s not an either/or business. It’s go ahead. Just not here,” he wrote.

Councillor Martin Repton, from the Derby Council, said he disagreed with Barnes’ assessment of the situation, telling the Derby Telegraph:

“The advice I have been given is that everything we have done has been legal.

“There’s no way on this earth I would want to be involved in anything that is illegal.”

He added Barnes’ assertion that 40% of the nature reserve will be destroyed was false. “The cycle track will take 18% of that site,” Mr Repton said.

Barnes ended his piece by highlighting the irony behind the location of the cycle track development and the nature council’s actions.

“Pride Park, eh?” he wrote. “Destruction of a nature reserve is really something to make Derby proud.”

14 user comments

Oldest firstNewest firstBest rated

Destruction ???????? Thinking

still on the 3rd switch-back of Bwlch !

posted by therevokid [923 posts]
17th February 2014 - 14:44


Wonder how long it will be before "they destroy nature reserves" gets thrown in to the mix along with 'knocking down grannies on the pavement' and 'jumping red lights' and 'wearing stupid looking plastic hats and silly yellow outfits'/'not wearing essential safety equipment' (or even both complaints at once) for the next generic collective-blame anti-cycling newspaper column?

posted by FluffyKittenofT... [1023 posts]
17th February 2014 - 14:46


He should care. They turned part of my local reserve into a golf course.

Really, though?

posted by workhard [393 posts]
17th February 2014 - 14:50


Seems to have a valid point. Surely the point of nature reserves is that they're safe from development, whether that development be a block of flats or a cycle track.

posted by chris75018 [101 posts]
17th February 2014 - 15:04


He may well have a point, but lashing out at cycling is veering towards Daily Mail territory.

nowasps's picture

posted by nowasps [352 posts]
17th February 2014 - 16:13


It wouldn't affect me hugely living where I do now, but I'd quite like to go racing in Derby! It just seems that the location they've chosen has already been developed.

To be honest though, the cycle path next to the river gets flooded very easily imagine any infrastructure that isn't a nature reserve may struggle anyway.

The usual commuter/racer/audaxer blog with some stuff about Pros too.

mtm_01's picture

posted by mtm_01 [195 posts]
17th February 2014 - 16:18


If you investigate this further you'll see that the track is being built on what looks like a brownfield site, of which the nature reserve is part of - see photo here https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=670191436336972&set=pcb.67019156...

Looks like there are plenty of other sites very close - why not build on one of those?

posted by qwerky [185 posts]
17th February 2014 - 16:40


nowasps wrote:
He may well have a point, but lashing out at cycling is veering towards Daily Mail territory.

I wasn't aware he was - but as the article is pay-walled I can't really check. The only organisations or people i've heard him actually criticise are the council and BC, and i'm not sure he doesn't have a point.

Anyone seen the full article who can comment ?

fukawitribe's picture

posted by fukawitribe [1331 posts]
17th February 2014 - 17:14


Another non-story really, next?

posted by northstar [1113 posts]
17th February 2014 - 17:42


I have ridden through that area quite a few times and didn't even realise there was a nature reserve there! More a dump really!

posted by jasonm945 [17 posts]
17th February 2014 - 18:11


I find his suggestion that this is anti "green" which cycling supposedly is.
What cobblers. Green? Yeah right. Just look at all those new bikes and fancy kit and all those bikes being driven to trail centres.
It does seem a touch in sensitive this but naturally we only have half the story to base our uninformed comments on1

posted by mattsccm [316 posts]
17th February 2014 - 19:36


I'm curious about this point:

“British Cycling agreed to part-fund the cycle-track - but, the council understood, only if it was next to the sports-centre/velodrome,”

Is it true, and if so, what reasons for this do BC give? Because it seems to me a bit odd to imply that (sports?) cyclists would be far too lazy to use the track if it were any more than a two minute leisurely stroll away from the sports centre.

posted by FluffyKittenofT... [1023 posts]
17th February 2014 - 21:23


As a Derby cyclist who actually attended the planning meeting when this application was passed maybe I could answer a few points.
The site itself was created when all the contaminated topsoil from Pride Park was dumped and covered with a membrane and fenced off to keep the public away. This allowed nature to regenerate the area and attracted wildlife (mainly birds) and the area was later upgraded to a Local Nature Reserve.
The funding from BC specified that the track should be next door to the velodrome so that the changing rooms and car parking can be used for both.
The track itself will be screened from the rest of the reserve by an earth bank to keep disturbance to a minimum and the whole area will be fenced off to protect both the LNR and the track.
The planning committee approved it by 6 votes to 5 ; all 5 Labour councillors voted for it while the 4 Tories opposed so it came down to the 2 Lib Dems who were split on the issue (or if you are cynical you could say they were allowed to make their own minds up Thinking )

posted by Quicksilver [1 posts]
18th February 2014 - 18:06


Quicksilver wrote:

The funding from BC specified that the track should be next door to the velodrome so that the changing rooms and car parking can be used for both.

I'm always bemused by how much sports fans and participants dislike being physically active!

posted by FluffyKittenofT... [1023 posts]
20th February 2014 - 15:36