Chief sports writer at The Times, Simon Barnes, has expressed his outrage at Derby council’s decision to approve plans for a cycle track on a Local Nature Reserve (LNR), in his weekly wildlife column.
Derby council’s announcement last week, that the much criticised plans to build a cycle track on The Sanctuary bird reserve would go ahead, came up against protests from a number of local conservation groups, as well as a last-ditch petition.
Now Barnes has joined those protesting calls in his column titled 'The great shame about Derby’s Pride Park'. In the column he slams the council’s inability to consider the wider context of their decisions, British Cycling, and the potential precedent that allowing the destruction of an LNR could set on a national scale.
He wrote: “It goes against their own policy. It is possibly also illegal.
“It is certainly the first time that a local council has given permission to destroy a Local Nature Reserve.
“The council, though mired in its own parochialism, may not just be setting a precedent but also dictating national policy. The Sanctuary was a protected site: and now it’s been unprotected. So perhaps all such sites are now unprotected.”
The 2008 sports columnist of the year winner also derided British Cycling for their support and agreement to part-fund the development which he likened to a “cyclist running a red light.”
“British Cycling agreed to part-fund the cycle-track - but, the council understood, only if it was next to the sports-centre/velodrome,” Barnes wrote.
“In other words, we’ll give out the money, but only if you trash the nature reserve.
“Cycling prides itself on being greener than thou: well, forget that. This development is like a cyclist running a red light.”
Barnes, however, was quick to highlight that the confrontation was not a matter of cycling versus wildlife.
“No one is opposing high-speed cycle tracks. It’s not an either/or business. It’s go ahead. Just not here,” he wrote.
Councillor Martin Repton, from the Derby Council, said he disagreed with Barnes’ assessment of the situation, telling the Derby Telegraph:
“The advice I have been given is that everything we have done has been legal.
“There’s no way on this earth I would want to be involved in anything that is illegal.”
He added Barnes’ assertion that 40% of the nature reserve will be destroyed was false. “The cycle track will take 18% of that site,” Mr Repton said.
Barnes ended his piece by highlighting the irony behind the location of the cycle track development and the nature council’s actions.
“Pride Park, eh?” he wrote. “Destruction of a nature reserve is really something to make Derby proud.”