Herne Hill Velodrome is a piece of cycling history. Set in the well-to-do area of South London between Dulwich and Brixton it has been a cycle track for 113 years. In it’s time it has staged the Olympics, several National championships and the annual Good Friday meeting. It is recognised as being the UK’s best outdoor track and for a long time was the best regarded track in the UK. Once it was one of several in the capital, in the pre war years when cycling was a massively popular spectator sport.
All our past champions have raced there and unlike many facilities it is well used by track leagues and up and coming young riders. Former World Champion Tony Doyle started out his racing carreer at HH, Bradley Wiggins has ridden there and many more stars over the years have used it as a training and meeting place for cyclists.
It is welcoming and relaxed, new riders to the track can be coached and encouraged onto the bankings and it is a great place to learn. It has been the springboard for many cycling careers and many enjoyable days out. However it is falling down. The Victorian grandstand, toilets and changing rooms are uninhabitable – it’s a mess. So the plans are to develop the site and it clearly needs it, if left unused it would certainly be threatened with closure. However as a TV programme presented by Tony Doyle last night on BBC1 showed, the residents don’t want it developed.
Action by the local residents could overwhelm the project, just by preventing the plans moving forward. This will mean that the long term future of Herne Hill may be the same as Leicester track, it will be left to rot and then declared unfit for public use. The recent closure has added fuel to the fire of speculation.
It’s not all bad as some residents see the value of the facility, but most are concerned with traffic build up if the site becomes more popular. Having walked around the site it’s easy to see that a developer would just turn this into a housing estate, it would be very profitable. Then let’s see how much more traffic there will be. However it stands on Metropolitan Open Land (MOL) and so development into anything other than sporting facilities is ‘unlikely’. For a developer they need to see where the most profit will come from. A covered velodrome will get plenty of use as would tennis courts, a swimming pool or perhaps a Golf course?
So what do British Cycling think? Surely they have to see that a velodrome inside the M25 will open cycling up to a much larger percentage of the population and the idea of a London without a cycle track is unforgiveable. The Velopark may distract attention away from the Herne Hill issue, but surely they must recognise the legacy of racing at Herne Hill?
It’s so sad. After all the good British track cyclists did for our sport in Athens and then two of the best facilities in the UK are closed soon after. This is a very important issue that requires your support we cannot let a site as important as Herne Hill decay and become redundant.
So wherever you live please join the Friends of Herne Hill, if you want to see gold medals at the next Olympics and stars like Bradley Wiggins do well in the future we need to get behind the Friends of Herne Hill and help them secure the long term for the velodrome.