Wrangling rather than cycling has been the main issue at Herne Hill Velodrome between The Dulwich Estate, British Cycling, Velo Club de Londres (the tenant) and Southwark Council. Tessa Jowell, Member of Parliament for Dulwich has now entered the fray. High time perhaps that she should as she is also the Minister for the Olympics and the stadium is expected to be the London training facility for some of those cyclists participating in the Games in a sport which at present Britain is World champion. In addition to Tessa Jowell, Kate Hoey MP, the Mayor of London’s Olympic advisor has also become involved.
Lengthy articles have appeared in Cycling Weekly providing a national showcase to an unhappy situation in which none of the participants comes out of with much credit. It states that there is deadlock in negotiations which are preventing the extension of the current lease which expires in August. The grandstand is boarded-up and has been declared unsafe and an investment of a reported £1.5million is required to restore the facilities. The one area which is in good order is the race-track itself.
The Dulwich Estate says that it was happy to give the British Cycling Federation a one year extension in 2008 (following the earlier granting of a three year lease) and in the interim it has received a business plan from the VC Londres for the long term future of the property which it is evaluating. “However, the charity continues to be frustrated by the lack of co-operation from Southwark Council in surrendering back to the Estate the lease of a small strip of land which would provide secondary access to the site”.
The strip of land, the lease of which is owned by Southwark Council has, according to the Council, a market value of £750,000 for which the Council requires recompensing. This strip of land is, according to the Dulwich Estate, essential for providing a secondary access to the Velodrome. VC Londres, which operates the track on behalf of the British Cycling Federation claims that the stadium does not require this secondary access.
It is understood that a second approach to the Dulwich Estate for a lease on the stadium, by a fitness company for health and gymnasium facilities has now fallen through, no doubt a casualty of the present recession which has seen the fortunes of such companies plummet. What options has the Dulwich Estate got for the velodrome if the current negotiations completely fail? Not much for the foreseeable future. The huge cost of removing the track would never be recovered if the site was changed to sports fields. There is no possibility of the site being used for building purposes as it is declared Open Metropolitan land. In any event, the Dulwich Estate is reported to be anxious for the cycling to continue there.
Ms Jowell said “I hope to persuade the Estate (that secondary access is unnecessary) and in doing so resolve the disagreement with Southwark. We are not going to stop until we have resolved this. I am absolutely determined to sort this out. They (the Estate) have an interest in the tradition and environment of Dulwich, and this velodrome is an essential part of the community and something Dulwich Estate should be very, very proud of. There is strong support locally for the velodrome and there is also support from beyond Dulwich itself. It is a time when cycling is one of the fastest growing participation sports. Not to have a proper velodrome - it’s simply unacceptable. We won’t rest until this matter is resolved”. (Cycling Weekly)
It is becoming increasingly rarer to be a bearer of good news, but the future of the Horniman Play Park opposite the Horniman Museum looks considerably brighter following improvements made to play equipment facilities and the re-opening of the café by Lewisham Council in March. Before that, the park was giving the Dulwich Society serious cause for concern; its amenities were poor, it was shunned by parents and children and huge opportunities were being wasted. Indeed it was so concerned that its Trees Committee contacted Lewisham Council with an offer to supply and plant trees in the play park. This has been agreed and six good size beeches are to be planted in the autumn at a cost to the Dulwich Society of £1300.
Since the spring all has changed as our picture shows. The paddling pool has been transformed into a large sand-pit with exciting features. There is an imaginative spider-web climbing frame and walls for the more adventurous. A lack of toilet facilities continues to vex parents, but apparently these are to be provided in some of the closed up buildings on the site. Whether it is the interest shown by the Dulwich Society that has prompted this activity we cannot say.
The site of Horniman’s Play Park was leased to Lewisham Council by the Dulwich Estate in the 1950’s and initially it was a huge success and was one of the first parks to introduce Swedish outdoor play facilities (the outlines of which still remain in the grassy banks). Like many parks in the 1970’s and 80’s it suffered from a shortage of funding which was increasingly diverted to minority programmes.
Harry Goodhew who lives at College Gardens has won a place in the Guiness World Records for being the youngest rugby football referee. He was aged 11 years and 234 days when he refereed two Under 12’s matches at Dulwich College last autumn.