As British track and field athletes prepare for the first meets of the season this weekend (April 18th), the long-term future of athletes based in South London continues to remain in doubt.
Despite a recent audit which estimates 22,000 individual visits a year to the indoor and outdoor athletics tracks at Crystal Palace National Sports Centre (CPNSC), the long term future of athletics in South London continues to remain in the balance, state Crystal Palace Sports Partnership (CPSP). Plans proposed by the GLA could see the indoor track demolished with no alternative facility being provided, and just the outside track remaining with no supporting stadium infrastructure. CPSP instigated a month long usage audit of both tracks to provide an insight into how many athletes could be effected, and the impact the plans could have.
In spite of freezing temperatures in February over 1700 athletes accessed the track facilities, in the audit organised in partnership with ‘Better’ (GLL, who manage the CPNSC). The audit, which brought together figures from ‘bulk users’ (athletic membership clubs), ‘Better’ members, and individual users alike, was instigated by CPSP in response to figures reported in the CPNSC Development Options Appraisal Interim Report 2014, published by CSM Strategic, which formed part of the Mayor of London’s 2014 consultation on the CPNSC, which CPSP proved beyond any doubt to be inaccurate.
Chairman of CPSP, John Powell said, “I am really grateful to GLL for engaging in a second audit of athletics facility usage rates at Crystal Palace. It is very clear that usage figures, which increase substantially during the summer months, are far higher than indicated in the CSM Interim Report, that stated 10,134 individual uses in 2013, and 6,907 in 2012, which post London 2012 I would question.”
“The stadium and indoor track area are very well used, and coaches based there are devastated at the possibility of not having any indoor area to train in. How on earth can you manage a decent speed/power event group in the British winter when they have to ‘warm up’ in minus temperatures? It would be a devastating blow to the sport, and the athletes and coaches concerned.”
Over 300 athletes from South London Harriers (SLH) alone took to the tracks during the audit, a club based at the CPNSC for the last 24 years, and the fourth oldest athletics club in the UK. President of SLH Mike Mein states, “The loss of the year round indoor and outdoor track training and event facilities, which are served by a first class integrated transport hub, would have a devastating impact on grassroots athletics locally, and mean the loss of invaluable club volunteers who have worked tirelessly to make community athletics a success for everyone. We pride ourselves in offering coaching in all athletic disciplines to the hugely diverse local community encompassing Bromley, Lambeth, Southwark, Croydon and Lewisham.”
A loss of facilities would also have a devastating impact on regularly held events, such as the recent AgeUK 10m run, South of England AA Championships, Harris Academy sports day, and the London Youth Games, whose usage has not been included in the audit.
CPSP Chair John Powell continues, “If the GLA’s proposals take place athletics will be decimated in South London. Generations to come will have lost a facility, which historically has produced innumerable world class athletes and eventual Olympians. When will there be a joined up approach with Sport England for planning sporting facilities? Where is the vision for a Community multi-sport hub? There are tremendous opportunities to enhance the Centre, which is a fantastic multi-purpose event and spectator centre for indoor and outdoor sports from grassroots to elite, but I have yet to see the appetite for this amid those in a position to influence. With the launch last month of London Sport, a joint initiative between The Mayor of London and Sport England, whose aim is to make ‘London the most physically active city on the planet’, I fail to understand why the Mayor of London would be prepared to oversee the permanent downgrading of facilities at one of the most iconic sporting venues in Europe.”
Date of publication: 14 April 2015
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