Campaigners fighting to save South London's historic Herne Hill Velodrome have grounds for celebration tonight with British Cycling this afternoon confirming to road.cc that they have agreed a 15-year lease with The Dulwich Estate, owners of the site which has helped launch the careers of talent including including three-time Olympic gold medallist Bradley Wiggins.
News of the deal was first broken last night by Jack Thurston, host of Resonance FM's The Bike Show, who tweeted from a party held last night by the Save The Velodrome campaign at London's City Hall, "This just in: British Cycling & Dulwich Trust (velodrome landlord) have agreed terms for new 15 year lease for Herne Hill Velodrome."
In a note of caution in response to others on Twitter celebrating the news, he added "@robus not so fast! still have to raise money for track resurfacing, new pavillion etc... much work to be done."
Commenting on the agreement reached with the site's landlords, Ian Drake, Chief Executive of British Cycling, said: “We are delighted to have recently agreed heads of terms for a 15-year-lease on the Herne Hill Velodrome track, which will enable British Cycling to progress with the necessary track resurfacing.
"This should give a major boost to the ‘Save the Velodrome’ campaign which can now focus its efforts on raising funds for a new pavilion. A lot of work still remains to be done but we are however, optimistic that the future of Herne Hill Velodrome will be secured for the benefit of cycling in the capital and to help develop the next generation of Olympic champions.”
The future of the velodrome, the last surviving venue from the London Olympics in 1948 but now fallen into disrepair, had been put in jeopardy as a result of The Dulwich Estate's desire to redevelop the site.
Last month, however, the Save The Velodrome campaign published details of a feasibility study of a redevelopment of the venue that they hoped would secure the future of the track, carried out with the help of the of the architects involved in the London 2012 Velodrome.
Those plans provide for a tented pavilion, including a café and a gym and changing rooms, occupying one side of the South London site, with a family cycling track passing between the two levels of the pavilion building, while inside the track, there would be a children’s cycle track and a bicycle polo area.
For its part, The Dulwich Estate seems to have been well disposed towards any workable plans to retain the facility for the use of cyclists, with Chief Executive John Major (not to be confused with the former prime minister) quoted on the Save The Velodrome website last month as having said: “The Trustees of The Dulwich Estate welcome and support this campaign in its objectives to ensure that cycling can continue at Herne Hill Velodrome.
“The Trustees welcome support from a community enterprise, working in partnership with CF, in formulating a plan to help guarantee the sustainability of cycling at Herne Hill in the long term.”
Supporters of the Save The Velodrome campaign include Olympic champion Bradley Wiggins, who began his track riding career at Herne Hill, London 2012 Olympic chief Lord Coe, local MP Tessa Jowell and nearby residents including actor James Nesbitt and comedian Jenny Eclair, as well as the many cyclists, young and old, who use its facilities.
Those present at last night's party, sponsored by Brompton Bikes and Paul Smith, included Eurosport commentator David Harmon, who tweeted afterwards: "A real eye-opener at the Save Herne Hill Velodrome campaign meeting last night. This campaign will succeed. Extraordinary people involved."
The Herne Hill Velodrome did suffer a blow last month, however, when organisers of the Good Friday Meet held at the venue since 1903, its biggest event of the year, were switching the 2011 edition to the Manchester Velodrome. Factors behind the decision included the uncertainty surrounding Herne Hill's future, plus the site's exposure to the elements which led to a last-minute cancellation of last year's event due to torrential rain.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.