Herne Hill Velodrome is set to get floodlights that will enable the facility to open longer during the winter months as well as a hardstanding area and junior track that it is hoped will help give youngsters the opportunity to follow the likes of London 2012 gold medallists Bradley Wiggins, Joanna Rowsell and Laura Trott, who all got their start in track cycling at the historic South London venue. Southwark Council, which is funding the works through a £400,000 grant from its Olympic Legacy Project, approved the applications, subject to some conditions, on Tuesday evening.
The works mark the next phase in the regeneration of Herne Hill, which had faced an uncertain future a little over two years ago with the site having fallen into disrepair, causing landlords The Dulwich Estate to consider redeveloping it.
That led to the launch of the Save The Velodrome campaign, the drawing up of plans to transform what is the last surviving venue of the 1948 Olympic Games, and British Cycling stepping in and agreeing to take on a new 15-year lease.
Last year, the venue reopened after the track had been resurfaced, those works paid for by British Cycling as well as through a bequest from the estate of the late Leonard Lyes, who died in July 2009 and was a member of the De Laune Cycling Club, regularly officiating at Herne Hill.
The works that have received provisional planning permission represent the next step in modernising Herne Hill; the final step will be the development of a pavilion to replace the current basic facilities.
In terms of the works approved this week, a press release from Herne Hill Velodrome trust says:
The first approval will see construction of an area of hardstanding and a junior track within the velodrome’s inner field. These will provide much needed training facilities for young, novice and less able riders. The junior track will provide a 250 meter flat surface for wide and diverse community use, such as the charity Wheels for Wellbeing who use hand bikes, trikes and side-by-side bikes to help less able riders enjoy cycling. This is the first time Herne Hill will be able to offer such space; other than the track and mountain bike course, there is currently no tarmac area for new and young riders to practice.
The second approval will see installation of much needed track lighting on the main velodrome, the first time the track has ever been lit in its 122-year history. The lighting has been designed with bespoke lighting poles to ensure it delivers the required brightness whilst also minimizing light overspill and with no ecological impact. Lighting will be available for use up to 9.15pm and will allow the velodrome to be used during the winter months when early darkness currently prevents training.
Hillary Peachey, chair of the Herne Hill Velodrome Trust, commented: “This is a very proud moment in our campaign. We will be able to offer more children, from more diverse backgrounds, an opportunity to learn track cycling.
“There will be more sessions for women to take up riding, and more time for non-conventional and less able cyclists to discover the freedom of riding in a safe and welcoming environment. And we can at last offer better facilities to those elite riders who train and race at Herne Hill, inspiring the next generation.”
British Cycling’s CEO, Ian Drake, added: “We are delighted that the Herne Hill Velodrome Trust have been successful in obtaining planning permission for what is effectively phase two of the velodrome's rebirth.
“Phase one was achieved in 2011 when British Cycling resurfaced the track, saving it from closure and we look forward to working with the Trust, the Dulwich Estate, Sport England and all our local members and supporters to deliver phase three - the redevelopment of the pavilion.”
The next phase of the works will be carried out by contractors FM Conway which aims to complete them in time for Herne Hill’s annual Good Friday Meeting, which will be held on 29 March and celebrates its 110th birthday this year, while work on the floodlights will start in May.
Councillor Veronica Ward, Cabinet Member for Culture, Leisure, Sport, and Olympic Legacy at Southwark Council, stated: "The Capital Legacy Fund has contributed significantly to the development of this famous Velodrome.
“We are delighted that this next phase has been granted planning permission and that the energy and dynamism of the 2012 Olympics has not been lost in Southwark. We are already seeing real examples of a long-lasting legacy.
“The state of the art improvements at Herne Hill Velodrome will open up this fantastic facility to larger numbers of cyclists, and allow different generations and people of all abilities to take advantage of the activities on offer."
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.