The London Development Agency (LDA) and British Cycling announced this week further interim measures to support London's cyclists while endangered great crested newts are relocated from the site of a new 2km circuit at Hog Hill in Redbridge.
By law, the protected species have to be moved before work can start on the new facility which is replacing Eastway Cycle Circuit. Poor weather conditions for collecting newts - a dry autumn and recent ground frosts - have restricted the days in which ecologists have been able to carry out collections. So far, they have only been able to complete 41 out of the 60 required collection days which has led to only half of the site being handed to the LDA.
In response, the LDA and British Cycling are putting in place additional interim facilities and a back-up plan for cyclists. They are: From Saturday, November 10th, British Cycling will run youth cycling every weekend at the Royal Docks on a 1.2km long tarmac formerly used as the Red Bull airstrip.
The LDA has also begun planning work with British Cycling to provide a minimum 1km track at the Royal Docks in time for the new cycling season in March 08. Work will begin on the track if the newt relocation cannot be finished before prolonged ground frost begins in late November and the newts go into hibernation. In this event, the LDA will also build a 900m circuit, pavilion, car park and judge's box on the half of the Hog Hill site that has been handed over by ecologists. This facility will also be open to cyclists in March.
"The unresolved newt situation is frustrating for everyone but especially so for the cyclists eager for the new facility at Hog Hill to open," said Andrew Gaskell, Senior Development Maager and the London Development Agency. "The Royal Docks track is a great opportunity for a quick boost to youth cycling because the tarmac is already there. Whatever the outcome with the newts, there will be at least 2km of cycle circuits in east London either at Hog Hill as planned, or split between Hog Hill and the Royal Docks."
"The strip at the Royal Docks will provide somewhere in the inner city area for young and old alike to race and train while we wait for Hog Hill to be completed," says Peter King, Chief Executive of British Cycling. "It will provide a safe, secure environment for cycling to take place and I am sure local schools and clubs will put it to good use."