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Will the Mountbatten Centre cycle track ever reopen?

Portsmouth track was closed in March of 2014 following a fatal crash during a race

The Mountbatten Centre’s cycle track was closed in March 2014 after Richard Phillips-Schofield died following a crash during a race. Despite repeated calls from the cycling community to reopen it since then, the track has remained closed and it seems there are few signs that this is likely to change any time soon.

Local cycling coach, David Gwilliam, started an online petition to get the track reopened in June of last year and this has so far attracted over 500 signatures.

Speaking at the time, he told the Portsmouth News that while an inquiry was needed into Phillips-Schofield’s death, stopping all coaching activities was an extreme and counterproductive measure. “The track is a traffic-free environment and is probably one of the safest areas that we could do any coaching. But now they’re doing it in car parks and even on the road, which is not very safe.”

Jon Spencer of Portsmouth Cycle Forum agrees. Writing on the group’s website, he said:

“After initial closure for racing only, British Cycling, PCC and Parkwood Leisure then banned all cycling at the track, including leisure riding and coaching. This blanket ban affects adults and children and makes no distinction between coaching and racing, even though these two activities are a world apart.

“This has resulted in the hundreds of children a week who were learning to ride their bikes there, safely in a traffic-free environment, being forced elsewhere and onto Portsmouth roads.  Many have just given up riding their bikes altogether. This, no doubt, will impact upon the city’s traffic volumes and obesity statistics in the coming years.”

John Millard, communications officer at Portsmouth council said it was down to Parkwood to decide when the track would reopen. "The council owns Mountbatten Leisure Centre but doesn't operate it. The decision to close the track was made by the operator, Parkwood Community Leisure, and the decision to reopen it is one for Parkwood too."

A spokesperson for Parkwood said simply:  "We are not prepared to make any comment at this time."

Nor, it seems, are British Cycling. We failed to get any response from regional development manager, Mark Adams, nor the organisation’s press office.

Spencer points out that several Olympians and World Champions, including Dani King and Rob Hayles, learned their cycling at the 115-year-old track and says it is not just Portsmouth that is suffering as a result of its closure.

“Local coaches, riders and racers have been left with a facility lying idle and a huge hole in the cycle skills teaching and racing activity in the area. This has extended far wider than just Portsmouth, and has been to the detriment of all in Hampshire and wider counties.”

Shortly after Gwilliam launched his petition, Councillor Robert New responded by saying he would do everything he could to resolve the matter, adding that he would keep the public apprised of progress. However, the petition has remained open and Portsmouth Cycle Forum are again encouraging people to sign.

Spencer says that the leader of Portsmouth City Council, Donna Jones, has recently agreed to meet and discuss reopening the track and adds that Portsmouth North MP, Penny Mordaunt, has given her support following a meeting with coaches.

Alex has written for more cricket publications than the rest of the team combined. Despite the apparent evidence of this picture, he doesn't especially like cake.

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trigwill | 7 years ago

Hi all. I created the petition to re-open the cycle track when it first closed to continue with structured coaching. Guess what? ITS OPEN! Local coaches have designed a Club Cluster of Training to deliver coaching sessions back on the Mountbatten track and local venues. Improvements have been made to the fencing (new railings etc.) and new Risk Assessment approved by British Cycling. Currently there are coaching sessions delivered on a friday evening and training on a wednesday evening, with gateway sessions planned for Saturday afternoons (monthly) and Monday evening intermediate/advanced sessions.  Announcements have been made discretely by local clubs Portsmouth North End (Saturdays), Portsmouth School of Cycle Racing (Fridays) Omega Events (Wednesdays) and Southern Coaching/Fareham Wheelers (Mondays). There are also more technical coaching sessions still delivered at South Downs College, Waterlooville where we have been delivering sessions on technical circuits during the track closure. As rider development has benefitted from the crit style circuits here, they will continue. You haven't heard a big announcement as we thought it wouldn't be prudent considering the inquest regarding the fatality causing the closure is still ongoing and out of respect to the rider's family. wink

fret | 8 years ago

It has been a cycle track for decades, but it's Portsmouth. With their inbred island mentality it leaves little to the imagination that the few brain cells they share as a city are used for pooball rather than sorting this out. I don't recall seeing a poofball ground closed after a death either.

andybwhite | 8 years ago

Do I see that this is a cycle track around the outside of an athletics track? Is it just the case that the cycle track only is closed (the original report seems to criticise the barriers) but the rest of the facility remains open?
Such a position would seem reasonable if the material state of the cycle track was contributory in the death as is implied in the original report.

ridemybike replied to andybwhite | 8 years ago

Typical PCC

PCC wrote:

"The council owns Mountbatten Leisure Centre but doesn't operate it. The decision to close the track was made by the operator, Parkwood Community Leisure, and the decision to reopen it is one for Parkwood too."

Slopey shoulders - they (PCC) own it - therefore it is down to them what happens to it - Parkwood should be removed from managing it if they can't/won't reopen at least the coaching/training element of cycling around the CYCLE track ...

I assume both Parkwood Community Leisure and Portsmouth City Council are both blind to the increase in popularity of cycling in this country - either that or forget that they are there to facilitate things for us.

othello | 8 years ago

Someone was telling me yesterday that the blanket ban on all cycling activities at the track has included a hand cyclist. He used to train there every week, and he has been stopped on safety grounds as al cycling and cycling related activities are prohibited. Shows the people in charge don't have an understanding of the details.

Preston Park track is currently closed but only for racing. Training is, I believe, still allowed. That is far more sensible and grounded than a blanket ban.

Jimmy Ray Will | 8 years ago

Not sure... knowing BC's ongoing challenges with their annual insurance premium, their hands are very tied when it comes to fatalities such as this.

I would imagine the process for getting the venue opened again is far too invasive, and the insurance repercussions too great for it to be a feasible option.

matheson | 8 years ago

People die on the roads every day, when will they be closed?

I assume palms are being greased and the area will be "redeveloped".

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