Olympic legacy company may move Eastway legacy road circuit

Eastway Users Group claims that land is earmarked for development

by Mark Appleton   January 6, 2011  

Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.jpg

It’s a bit early to cry foul on the issue of 2012 Olympic legacy promises being broken, but there are suggestions of just that possibility in relation to the future park on the main Olympic site in northeast London.

Legacy promises were an important element of London’s Olympic bid and plans for what will be called the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, include the reinstatement of the Eastway cycle circuit, which was bulldozed in order to create the current Olympic Park.

But now, according to the Eastway Users Group (EUG), there are moves afoot to relocate the part of the circuit which crosses the River Lea in order, they say, to build a housing development. Such a move would, the EUG feels, potentially result in a far less attractive cycling facility.

According to Cycling Weekly the EUG’s chairman, Michael Humphreys, sent an email to its members stating: "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."

It is the Lee Valley Park Regional Authority that will manage the legacy park, and its corporate director for parklands and venues, Vivien Blacker, told road.cc: “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.”

A spokesman for the OPLC, meanwhile, told us: “We recently announced our long-term ambitions for the future Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park which place families, communities and sport at the heart of our master planning.

"In developing these plans, we are seeking to improve the quality of the open river-valley space in the north of the Park, while also taking into account factors such as the phasing of the build programme and optimising public access.

"As part of this process, we are working closely with the Lee Valley Regional Park Authority and cycling groups to look at the best location of the cycle circuit route.”

Ultimately the decision on whether that master plan is realised and where the cycle route is located, rests with the Olympic Delivery Authority which has its own planning division with the power to approve planning applications.

That body is nominally independent, but just how independent in terms of its alignment with the aims of the OPLC may become a topic for debate once it has given its verdict on the company's legacy park master plan some time in the second half of this year.

Before it does so however, there are likely to be plenty of arguments and counter-arguments about what is best for cyclists and what, in the view of the OPLC, is the best Olympic legacy for the wider community. We will keep you posted as the story develops.