Derby closed road cycle track scrapped due to legal row over nature reserve (+ video)

Wildlife campaigners celebrate after council says project no longer financially viable; "a big missed opportunity" says Sustrans

by Simon_MacMichael   March 15, 2014  

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

Derby City Council has scrapped plans to build a controversial cycle track on a nature reserve close to the city’s Park Pride stadium with a lengthy legal battle with environmental campaigners meaning it is no longer financially viable.

Opponents of the 1.5km, closed road circuit have hailed the news as "good news for wildlife, both locally and nationally." But the councillor in charge of the project says it is a setback to the city’s cycling ambition, while Sustrans says it is a “big missed opportunity.”

According to the Derby Telegraph, Martin Repton, the council’s cabinet member for leisure and culture, said that he was “very unhappy with this course of events, as our vision of becoming a regional centre for cycling excellence is now under serious threat”.

Matt Easter, Sustrans’ East Midlands regional director said: “From a cycling point of view I’m clearly disappointed. A closed-circuit track was a great opportunity for people to cycle and learn to ride a bike in a safe environment. Hopefully, this decision will not put the people of Derby off using their bikes.

“I can see where the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust is coming from but I feel that this is a big missed opportunity for the city and cycling in the city,” he continued.

“There are potentially other sites that could be used but none that make as much sense as Pride Park. It would have added a great deal to the Derby arena and velodrome project and would have been something that local people would have perhaps used more readily than the velodrome itself. It’s a great shame.”

Among those who opposed the track, which would have encroached on part of The Sanctuary nature reserve, were BBC TV wildlife presenter Chris Packham and award-winning Times sports journalist Simon Barnes.

Packham described the plans as a “wanton act of vandalism,” while Barnes, writing in his wildlife column for The Times, said that the track was “possibly illegal” and “certainly the first time that a local council has given permission to destroy a Local Nature Reserve," and he raised concerns that other local authorities might follow suit.

They supported calls from coalition campaign group Derbyshire Wildlife Trust, which had described the proposals as setting “a dangerous precedent.” Last month it succeeded in gaining an injunction to prevent further work on the land while it applied for a judicial review of the plans.

The following video, filmed by Derbyshire Aerial Photography at the end of February, shows the nature reserve and the extent of the preparatory ground-clearing work carried out by the council.

On the Hands Off The Sanctuary Bird Reserve at Pride Park, Derby page on Facebook, one commenter said: “The Council seemed to quite easily divide the cyclist lobby and conservationists – maybe the campaigners could look at how to avoid that unnecessary division, as it only plays into the developers' hands.

Reacting to the news that the project had been shelved, the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust's conservation manager, Tim Burch, said it was “good news for wildlife, both locally and nationally”.

He added: “The council did offer a compensatory site at Alvaston Scrubs but this was not suitable compensation as it would have entailed destroying one habitat on a designated Local Wildlife Site to create another, still resulting in an overall loss of wildlife habitats in the city.”

Plans to build the track close to Derby County FC’s Pride Park stadium and the Multi-Sports Arena, which is currently nearing completion and houses a velodrome, were first revealed in April 2011.

But the council said in a statement yesterday that the ongoing legal row over it meant that the project, already said to have cost “tens of thousands of pounds,” was no longer viable financially, and that planning permission had been withdrawn.

“Work required before the bird nesting season can now no-longer take place,” the statement said. “This means the project cannot be delivered utilising the contractors currently on site and this will increase costs beyond the budget currently available”.

Councillor Repton insisted: “The Sanctuary could have existed side-by-side with the cycle track. We are not talking about Motocross here. We are talking about cyclists. Just a hundred yards away you have a football stadium where there are often 25,000 screaming fans who seem to co-exist quite amicably with the wildlife.”

The legal battle may not yet be over, however, with the council saying an agreement with the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust, which provides it with advice on issues related to the natural environment, remaining in force.

That agreement will now be “formally reviewed” in relation to the cycle track plans, and the council says it will take legal action if it believes there has been a breach of its terms.

Derbyshire Wildlife Trust’s chief executive, Ed Green, maintained that its position had been clear throughout, saying: “We provided them with advice at every stage and at every stage we’ve advised them they shouldn’t be doing it.”

4 user comments

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Dont get me wrong, i hug trees all day long and recycle all my organic knitted muesli, but up until 20 years ago wasnt the area where Pride Park is the "original site of Derby's railway manufacturing industry, but land here had also been used for gas and coke works, gravel abstraction and landfill" with the site containing "a cocktail of contaminants, including tars, phenols, heavy metals, ammonia and boron."?

This is hardly an ancient woodland or an untouched rural idyll.
The wildlife there have adapted very quickly and they can adapt again. I suspect the wildlife here are pretty robust types too - it is land bounded on all sides by roads, houses, industry and the Derby FC ground.
Like i say, i have the greatest respect for the wildfire protector types but this time i think they are focussing their energies on the wrong cause.

posted by Some Fella [719 posts]
15th March 2014 - 17:58

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They have more than a point reading the pride park Facebook page, yes it's old industrial land but one that for a number of years had birds like the skylark birds that have declined by 50% or so having the lions share taken by a cycle track etc, and recently great created newts where found, the point being though a unprepossessing patch of land it's important for animal that are rare and fairly well protected legally, a cycle path doesn't need to be in that exact place but this is a well settled nature reserve.

Sustrans and British cycling could do well to read these things properly before offering support.

posted by rogermerriman [18 posts]
16th March 2014 - 10:28

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In the linked story Chris Packham, whose opinion I normally kndof respect, said

"Packham said: “The Sanctuary needs to remain secure as an invaluable and important reserve for nature.

“Not ‘any old nature’ but a unique assemblage of plants and animals many of which are nationally endangered.""

If it is a "unique assemblage of plants and animals many of which are nationally endangered" why doesn't it been designated as a site of special scirntific interest rather than have a non stautory designation as a local wildlife site? Seems he's overstating his case a bit. No doubt this is an interesting site, nesting skylarks are an increasingly rare thing these days and would be suffucent reason not to develop the site, but overegging the pudding does no one any favours.

Surely looking for another site which can accomadate a track if more then 1500 metres would be better, how many people would be getting lapped in a race of a decent length on that?

Anyone want to bet that at the first application for an indusrial use of that site the skylarks will sudenly become irrelevant!

posted by spen [76 posts]
16th March 2014 - 11:00

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I think it's important to bear in mind the intended nature of the track. This was never a nice off-road leisure track - which might have complemented a nature area - and for my money it looked like a relatively short and uninteresting race track.

And this idea that it was for people to learn to cycle on? Certainly a car-free track would be nice for that, but let's be honest, most of us learned well enough on quiet residential roads or in parks, carparks, etc. As far as cycling is concerned this would have been a luxury rather than a necessity.

posted by pmanc [113 posts]
17th March 2014 - 10:40

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