Changing Olympic Legacy road circuit could pose funding risk
Inspite of assurances given by the Olympic Park Legacy Company (OPLC) in this feature, the controversial changes they want to make to the Velopark road and mtb circuits could still meet with unforeseen problems.
Worse, any delay could mean Legacy funding drying up. This is according to a well-placed influential source speaking to Cycling Weekly off the record this week.
This revelation came as the OLPC stress in the current issue of Cycling Weekly that there will be no delay to the project, which will be delivered on time, and built to the exacting specifications called for.
The section of road circuit in question is the loop which crosses the River Lea on two bridges. OPLC say they see a better use for this land for public use and have suggested the circuit be shifted east, still looping about the Velodrome and BMX track.
The orginal promise was to improve on the Eastway Cycle Circuit which existed here for 30 years, before being demolished to make way for the Olympic Park.
In the opinion of our anonymous observer, the sport should heed Michael Humphreys, the outspoken chair of Eastway Users Group (EUG), who is concerned that any delay to completion of the Velopark could put funding at risk.
Humphreys says: "Users agreed to step aside for London 's Games and were given Lord Coe's earnest assurances that the legacy would meet and exceed our expectations. The approved plan does the job of providing London with a lasting legacy for Olympic sports that were on a highly protected site since 1975. Any revision throws the delivery, funding and viability into doubt."
All involved in this process so far - The Olympic Delivery Authority, the Lee Valley Regional Park Authority who will manage the Velopark, British Cycling and EUG - are happy with the current plans which took two years to hammer out and were given planning consent last August.
Their concern now is that reworking them could lead to unforeseen delays which could push the project from first to last in the Olympic Legacy queue.
And it raises the question, why?
A spokesman for OPLC told Cycling Weekly: "We recently announced our long-term ambitions for the future Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park which place families, communities and sport at the heart of our master planning.
"In developing these plans, we are seeking to improve the quality of the open river-valley space in the north of the Park, while also taking into account factors such as the phasing of the build programme and optimising public access.
"As part of this process, we are working closely with the Lee Valley Regional Park Authority and cycling groups to look at the best location of the cycle circuit route."
Cycling Weekly put the following questions to OPLC:
1. Is the circuit to be moved to make way for housing, as many fear!
OPLC say, no. The current plans show both housing and the existing route for the track can be accommodated. If the circuit is moved away from the River Lea crossing, it moves eastwards on land that had previously been designated for housing.
2. Won't any changes to the plan lead to a delay in the delivery of the cycle circuit.
OPLC say no. The May 2013 delivery date generally referred to is the date the Velodrome and BMX circuit is to open. They say the planning permission states that the cycle circuit is due to open by the end of 2014 and the mountain bike trail by the end of 2013. They want to bring those dates forward to autumn 2013, regardless of the circuit's layout.
3. Why move the cycle circuit?
OPLC say a decision on whether to move it or not is still to be made. They claim the advantages of moving the circuit east are.-
a: to free up a chuck of parkland in Hackney for families to access;
b: The mountain bike trail can be put within the circuit protecting it from walkers and dog walkers, and keeping the site more secure;
c: Avoid the need for a tight river crossing on the circuit into Hackney
d: The site will fall under the jurisdiction of one owner - LVRPA.
OPLC say the road circuit will remain one-mile long, and the mtb trails at 6.5km. Both would have same degree of difficulty.
They say the plans are work in progress. Meeting with the all key stakeholders including Eastway User Group, ODA, LVRPA, Sport England and British Cycling, is ongoing.