The Olympic mountain bike venue, Hadleigh Country Park in Essex, has moved a step closer to getting a permanent mountain bike facility that will be open to the public after the Games.
The BBC reports that Castle Point Borough Council has voted to allow a planning application to construct two biking tracks, a bike skills area, a visitor centre and other facilities on land at Hadleigh Country Park.
The Olympic course was made more technical after initial reaction from riders. The public version will be adapted to make it safe for public use.
According to Essex newspaper the Enquirer, more than 300 people turned out to hear the outcome, with chief planning officer Steve Rogers saying there were no planning grounds to refuse the proposal.
There was criticism from some local people who are concerned about the effect on the Benfleet Downs area.
Conservative councillor for St Mary’s, Alf Partridge, said had been contacted by scores of residents. “The general message has been a call to leave our downs alone. It is one of the last quiet, unspoilt bits of open space in South Benfleet.
“I hope people don’t give up but carry on fighting this.”
However, a spokesman for Essex County Council told Bikemagic that the plans were still very much “up in the air. It will all be decided after the Olympics.”
He was unable to say whether there would be a charge to ride at Hadleigh Farm.
Previous statements from Essex County Council detailed the plans for the venue. Back in April, the Council said: “At the heart of the proposals are plans to improve and enhance the network of existing paths and trails across Hadleigh Country Park and Hadleigh Farm, improving access for walkers, cyclists, mountain biking, runners and horse riders. The trail network will include the adapted Olympic Mountain Bike course.
“This will be connected to the Country Park and the wider area by the network of multi-user trails for walkers, cyclists and other users. New walking trails with interpretation panels, enhanced horse riding trails and cross-country running trails will also be provided within the Country Park. The improved trail network also includes enhancements to walking and cycling access between Benfleet and Leigh-on-Sea stations.”
If the venue does become available, it won’t be the first time an Olympic course has been opened to the public. Riders could use the mountain bike track at Fairfield City Farm in Sydney after the 2000 Olympics, but the trail was closed shortly afterwards.
Fairfield City Farm charged an entry fee to ride the trail and “the interesting sections were only open to people with club licenses as they were deemed too technical for bumblies,” according to Craig Flynn of western Sydney’s Central Tablelands Mountain Bike Club.
The fees were intended to fund permanent maintenance staff for the trail, but this proved too expensive for the level of use. The venue’s main focus was perceived to be on its existing equestrian users and local mountain bike clubs were not allowed provide volunteer labour to help with maintenance.
The hoped-for use as a race venue by local mountain bike clubs also failed to materialise as the AUD2,000 fee for a day’s use was beyond their means.
New owners recently revamped and re-opened Fairfield City Farm as Calmsley Hill but the mountain bike track remains closed. In an email to a member of the Rotorburn forum, the new owners said: “The track is currently heavily over grown and many of the crossing have been attacked by termites. I cannot give you a guarantee regarding timing nor any certainty it will be opened.”