City hopes to tap into cycling funding to finance project

“Cycling is the new golf” is a mantra that has been bandied about for a few years now, describing a trend towards busy executives networking with one another on two wheels rather than on the fairway. But Birmingham City Council plans to take the concept a stage further after unveiling proposals to turn a loss-making municipal golf course into a cycling destination.

According to the council’s plans, Hilltop Golf Course, located between Handsworth and Sandwell Valley, would be turned into a cycling centre, with bike paths and race circuits, a BMX track, stunt cycle facilities and even a velodrome. With a running track also planned and its proximity to the open air Swan swimming pool, the facility would also be able to host triathlon events.

The Birmingham Mail said that Councillor Martin Mullaney, who is in charge of the city’s sport and leisure facilities, estimated that the council loses about £900,000 a year through its seven municipal golf courses, and that Hilltop alone accounted for almost half that amount.

Councillor Mullaney believes that Birmingham needs a world-class cycling facility, something it currently lacks. Funding is an issue, however, although the scheme could benefit from money coming into the sport as a result of Britain’s success at the Olympics and elsewhere.

According to Councillor Mullaney, development would take place over several years, during which time the site would make the transition from golf course, through public park, then “a cycle race track, and more extensive cycle paths. It would be ideal place for the triathlon.” The outdoor velodrome, a facility currently absent from the West Midlands, is proposed at a later stage.

The golf course is reportedly due to close on 1 January, and club chairman Norman Munslow told the newspaper of his dissatisfaction about the lack of consultation that had taken place. “We were never told about this, which I think is appalling,” he said, adding that “here should be a consultation period because as a club we have done nothing wrong and we want answers.”

Unsurprisingly, Birmingham Running and Triathlon Club, which has 400 members, was more welcoming of the plans. Its chairman, Tauny Southwood, told the Birmingham Mail: “We have a growing contingent of junior and novice triathletes of all ages, and we have lacked a suitable, safe training venue for these members.”

He added, “There are very few, if any, dedicated training facilities for triathlon within the UK and one could envisage this becoming an important national venue. There may be opportunities to apply for national sports grants to assist in the creation of a world class triathlon training facility.”

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.