Threat to track could leave Olympic legacy hamstrung

CHILDREN inspired by Team GB’s heroics at the Olympic Games may be forced to travel 20 miles out of town after the future of the area’s only running track was thrown into serious doubt.

The athletics track at William Parker Sports College is showing serious signs of wear and tear 15 years after it was laid down.

Its inside lane is rapidly wearing out and unless resurfaced or replaced it could be forced to close.

The Track Management Committee at the college predicts it could need refurbishing within two to six years.

It has no funds to replace the track and fear it will be unable to host competition race meetings in the future as it will be unable to secure a UK Athletics safety certificate.

The County Council, which owns the track, says it has already “paid over and above its annual financial contributions,” and is now relying on funding from central government.

Hastings’ own Olympian Sean Baldock, who cut his teeth on the track, has pledged to write to Prime Minister David Cameron and start a petition.

“It would be a travesty if we lost the track,” he said: “The interest is there - the Olympics is proving that.

“Mr Cameron talks about inspiring a generation - well he needs to look 60 miles down the road for a reality check.”

Hastings Athletics Club has been using the track since it opened it first opened in 1997.

Owned by the county council, it was the first track in the UK to be opened after funding from the National Lottery.

The county council, borough council, UK Athletics, Sport England and the Athletics Club all signed an agreement to maintain and make it sustainable for the use of the community.

The club now fears its 200 members may be forced to travel to places like Sussex Downs College in Eastbourne or Julie Rose stadium in Ashford.

Peter Southee, chair of the committee, said: “At at time when the Olympics is inspiring a whole new generation of youngsters, it is really disappointing to think we might have no proper running track.

“We have a few thousand pounds left in the kitty and how far is that going to stretch?

“We can’t apply for lottery funding as they don’t give money for repair work.

“It is a very worrying situation. We want to capitalise of the euphoria and interest created by the Olympics yet we really feel hamstrung.”

Digby Brodrick, current chairman and a member of Hastings Athletics Club since 1992, said: “On the back of the Olympics, we have had enquiries from about six youngsters and from two Polish people who have moved to the area. “But what long-term future would they have at our club.

“The future of the track depends on more people using it and it being marketed to the community.

“But there are currently no toilet or changing facilities for our athletes or disabled users.

“We get very frustrated because there is very little we can do. We even offered to build our own toilets on site but that was turned down.

“It will be a very sad day when young people have to travel to Eastbourne or Ashford to train.”

William Park assistant headteacher David Evans is secretary of the committee.

He said: “There is no sinking fund to do the repairs.

“We have a class A UK Athletics certificate until March 2014.

“In its current state it might not last much past that.

“Lane one is worn out and it would cost £350,000 to relay the whole track.

“If it became unsafe with several holes in the track then it would have to be totally replaced costing £500,000.

“If the funding can’t be provided there is always a possibility that it might shut down.”

Sean Baldock, now 35, competed well in 400m events at the Sydney and Athens Olympics

Now teaching sport at Buckswood School, he said: “The sustainability aspect appears to have been lost.

“The parties need to sit down and sort it out.

“Athletics is still amateur in this country - and the track owners and managers don’t think like professional businesses.

“If we are going to progress from London, there should be a five star leisure facility in every town in this country. Kids must not be denied the chance to follow in my footsteps and represent their home town and country.”

County Council spokesman, James Holland, said: “We hope that the running track will continue to be a valued amenity for the school and local community. Despite the widely reported savings that we have to make as a local authority, we have paid over and above our annual financial contributions towards maintenance of the track.

“The management committee has done very good work in managing limited resources to look after it.

“We agree the track will need refurbishment work in future and we hope more national funding will be available for this facility following the London 2012 Olympic success and the Prime Minister’s pledge to support investment in school sports.”