Fears raised that London cyclists will be "chased off" Hog Hill circuit for 2012 Olympics

LOCOG apply for "exclusive use" during Games of circuit built for cycle racers foreced out by Olympic Park

by Tony Farrelly   August 18, 2011  

London 2012 logo union flag.jpg

London's amateur cycling community is being urged to makes its voice heard to ensure that amateur cycle racing is able to continue at the Hog Hill Cycle circuit next summer before and during the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Concerns were raised about access to Hog Hill next summer when the Eastway Users Group {EUG} spotted the following paragraph on page 12 of a supporting document for a planning application by the London Olympic Games organising committee (LOCOG) in relation to using the Hog Hill circuit as a training venue for athletes.

"The venue will be used non-exclusively by London 2012 from 2 July 2012. A security sweep will be undertaken on the 15 July 2012, with exclusive use from July 16 2012. Official training for Olympic athletes will start on July 16 and official training for Paralympic athletes will commence on 22 August. Exclusive use will end on 9 September with non-exclusive use from the 10 - 17 September 2012."

The EUG fears that amateur racers and leisure cyclists will now be chased out of the very venue built to accommodate them during the build up to the Olympics and crucially during the Games itself with nowhere else for them to go.

LOCOG however contend that Hog Hill will be made available for public use during the Games. In a statement to road.cc a LOCOG spokesman told us:

"During the London 2012 Games LOCOG will use the Redbridge Cycle Centre as a Games-time training venue for olympic athletes. The venue will also be available for public use outside the hours required by games athletes the schedule for shared use will be released in early 2012."

However those that believe that amateur racers will be kept out of Hog Hill for the duration of the Games won't be reassured by the paragraph of LOCOG's planning application summarising the likely impact on the travel network in the area around Hog Hill.

"As athletes will have exclusive access to the leisure centre facilities the number of daily trips to and from the centre will be significantly lower than normal."

It is a moot point how both athletes and the public, especially those participating in summer racing events such as the, East London Velo road race league, the MTB Beastway series, and Tuesday Tens time trials can do so along with a maximum of 225 athletes per day, (according to LOCOG's application) without having "an impact on the local transport network".

To get the site ready to be used as an Olympic training venue LOCOG plans to install enhanced securing measures that include erecting a 3 metre high security wall around Hog Hill, hence the planning application… and we'd guess the reason Glastonbury is off next year too.

According to the Michael Humphreys of the Eastway User's Group the only indication that things might change for Hog Hill users during the Olympics was that the organisers of the Beastway MTB series were told that they might not be allowed on to the site until after 4PM. Humphreys is worried that exclusive use of the site by Olympic athletes would disrupt, not only Beastway, but all the other race series that take place there including road racing and time trial events at a crucial point in the season – indeed a significant portion of the season would be lost. He also points out that weekends at Hog Hill are "booked solid with a wide range of events for all abilities and ages of sport rider," and that venues like Hog Hill are also likely to come in to their own during the Games with members of the public whose interest in participating in cycling is fired by the Games and want some where to give it a go safely.

"Given cycling's increasing popularity and GB's prominence in the sport at Olympic level, we all would like to see Hog Hill open and able to welcome any peak in interest from people new to the sport that will come with the Games in London. We obviously want to see a full season for regular riders and that's why London and Government came up with the funding to build and operate Hog Hill as a relocation for events and activities to carry on right throughout the process of building and playing the Games. The facility at Hog Hill was built for Eastway users, not for the Games organisers who got their hands on Eastway in return. I know this because I signed the deal," he told road.cc.

He also casts doubt on the likely demand for the facility from athletes taking part in the Games pointing out that "Road riders can ride on the actual Surrey road circuit and will come to the Games straight from pro competition anyhow. Off-road riders would be able to use the secure facility built for their event at nearby Hadleigh." Presumably track riders will prefer to train on a velodrome.

Any loss of amenity at Hog Hill would be a particularly sensitive for many of its users because of the long drawn out fight they had to secure the facility in the first place. When LOCOG first announced its plans to build the Olympic Park on the site of the Eastway Cycle circuit without there was no adequate relocation site in place for the cyclists displaced by the loss of Eastway.

As a result many of London's amateur racing cyclists lost two seasons of competition as the Eastway Users Groups battled LOCOG and local councils to secure a suitable relocation venue. That venue was Hog Hill which cost £4.5m and is jointly funded by the London Development Authority and the London Borough of Redbridge with funding slated to continue until the New Eastway (officially known by the less zingy title of Legacy Amenity) becomes available back at the Olympic Park, scheduled date for that is May/June 2013.

The future of New Eastway itself is itself in doubt even before it has been built with the Olympic Park Legacy Company and the London Borough of Hackney seeking to get planning consent for the Velopark overturned in favour of building higher value housing on the site.

The whole saga of cycling's treatment by all those involved in the London Olympic Project so far has been a sorry one beset by argument and delay. The irony of it all is, as Michael Humphreys points, out that cycling was one of the few Olympic sports with a physical and thriving presence in East London before the Games were planned it was first forced out to make way for the Olympics and now it risks being forced out of its temporary home yet again by the Olympics.

We understand the EUG has asked British Cycling what it knew about the plans, but has yet to receive a reply.  road.cc has also asked British Cycling for a statement on the subject of what happens to amateur racing at Hog Hill while the 2012 Olympics are on.

You can read LOCOG's Hog Hill planning application at planning.redbridge.gov.uk/swiftlg/apas/run/WPHAPPDETAIL.DisplayUrl (there is a link on the document to follow if you wish to comment.

The document on planning for fencing, temporary building, exclusive use and the impact on the local travel network can be found at planningdocs.redbridge.gov.uk/AnitePublicDocs/00201077.pdf