Hadleigh Farm 2012 mountain bike site to open to public

Mountain biking at Hadleigh Farm Hadleigh Farm will accommodate 20,000 mountain bike fans for the London Olympics

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An Olympic mountain bike course in Essex will open to the public after the London 2012 Games.

Castle Point Borough Council voted to allow a planning application to construct two biking tracks, a bike skills area, a visitor centre and other facilities on land at Hadleigh Country Park.

The scheme will see the course adapted to make it safe for the public to use.

Hadleigh Farm is hosting two days of Olympic competition next week.

'Carry on fight'

Essex County Council put forward plans for a permanent recreation trail at Hadleigh Farm and Hadleigh Country Park, and a new visitor centre and business units.

A county council report to the committee said the scheme would aim to provide "opportunities for people to more fully access, enjoy and appreciate the area's natural and historic environment".

Analysis

As you drive towards Hadleigh along the A13 it is very obvious that this is an Olympic host borough.

Flags fly proudly from every lamppost bearing the Olympic logos, the rings and the words "London 2012".

But what legacy will be left behind after the mountain bikers have crossed the finish line and the flags have been taken down?

It is a question that has provoked strong feelings.

At the planning committee meeting at Castle Point Borough Council more than 250 people filled the public gallery and overspill room.

At times things got rather heated: the cheers, booing and applause from residents earned them several stern rebukes from the committee chairman.

"Be quiet, or I will clear the public gallery," Councillor Bill Dick warned them. At least two people got up and walked out in anger.

The Olympic Games may be bringing people together, but the matter of the Olympic legacy has divided the local community around Hadleigh.

The plans have been backed by cyclists but opponents claimed the development would spoil the countryside.

Conservative councillor for St Mary's, Alf Partridge, said he had received scores of emails, phone calls and letters from residents about the inclusion of Benfleet Downs in the county council's plans.

Mr Patridge said he was angry he was barred from speaking because the site location did not fall in his ward.

"Most of the downs are used by residents from St Mary's," he said. "The general message has been a call to leave our downs alone. It is one of the last quiet, unspoilt bits of open space in South Benfleet.

"I hope people don't give up but carry on fighting this."

Stephen Castle, of the Conservative-run Essex County Council, said the planning decision would establish a "legacy".

"Essex residents can be proud not just of hosting the exciting and challenging London 2012 Olympic Mountain Bike events but proud of the promise of a legacy," he said

"The project will also benefit the environment, by enabling historic and natural environment improvement projects."

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