Croydon’s BMX track is to open this weekend.The ribbon-cutting hoopla will take place in Norbury Park from 10am on Saturday, offering what the council calls “an all-abilities, all-ages ‘rock-up-and-ride’ session”.
There will be equipment available to borrow, and coaches will be on hand to give riding advice.
What’s it matter if the opening is taking place one month into the school summer holidays?
The track is similar to a number of other cycling facilities which have been built for the vibrant new Olympic event around London and which have proved to be hugely popular and successful, notably in Burgess Park, Walworth.
Norbury Park’s track is in an area smaller than a football pitch, at 70 metres by 40 metres, and is sited close to the park pavilion. The scheme has been supported by Sport England, British Cycling and Transport for London.
The council claims that the track’s tight, banked hairpin bends “will make for exhilarating riding as well as providing a visual spectacle”, and the council is helping to establish a BMX club which will be organising regular racing and other events at the track.
But the scheme only went ahead after a lengthy piece of mithering, in particular by one self-appointed community activist, with threats that the Friends of Norbury Park group would be disbanded, giving rise to the extraordinary spectacle of two Labour councillors for Norbury ward addressing the planning meeting in July 2016, with one speaking in favour of the scheme, the other opposing it. Presumably because they couldn’t agree on the party whip…
Following a majority 9/10 vote in favour at that planning meeting, the Labour-run council has gone ahead with the innovative scheme, probably the first significant parks work in the cash-strapped borough since the re-modelling of Wandle Park was completed in 2012.
It has also brought the park pavilion back into regular use, with Croydon Boxing Club moving in after spending £10,000 to re-fit the interior, which provides a couple of rooms for the new BMX club as a workshop and to store equipment, under an agreement which guarantees a certain amount of free, community use each year.
“This project is a significant investment in one of our parks,” said Timothy Godfrey, the council cabinet member responsible for parks and sport.
“It’s vital we make improvements like this to ensure our parks attract a wide range of local users. Officers have worked hard to bring about this exciting project. The opening festivities continue this good work.”The project has been funded by the council using £44,000 of Section 106 money obtained from private housing developers as part of the planning process.
The scheme is supported by Access Sport, a national charity dedicated to improving the life chances of young people by giving them opportunities to take part in sporting activities.
The charity’s Joe McTague said: “We help young people by building thriving community sports clubs, led by inspirational volunteers, in some of the most disadvantaged urban areas. These clubs then provide life-changing opportunities, while creating a lasting, locally owned community resource.”
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