Top cyclist warns council over velodrome failure

Callum Skinner on the track at Meadowbank. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
Callum Skinner on the track at Meadowbank. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
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ONE of the world’s top young cyclists has warned that a failure by city chiefs to consider an indoor cycle track risks making the same mistake that has ruined the Meadowbank velodrome.

Public response to the proposals for the £1.2 million cycling hub at Hunters Hall Park in Niddrie has been “overwhelmingly” positive, with 91.2 per cent in favour.

Options due to be considered include track cycling, and BMX and cycle speedway tracks and an open-air velodrome like the crumbling track at Meadowbank. But Callum Skinner, who recently clinched his first gold medal at world cup level in the team sprint event, wants to see an indoor facility which could be used all year round.

The 22-year-old former James Gillespie’s high school student criticised the council for “lack of ambition”.

He said: “The current situation with Meadowbank is a velodrome that is crumbling and a track cycling community that is in decline. Meadowbank’s main problem since construction is that it is not protected from the elements.”

Skinner, who moved to Bruntsfield when he was 12, started training with the Edinburgh Racers and took part in the save Meadowbank march.

It was announced last December that the velodrome where both he and Sir Chris Hoy learned their craft would be sold off and demolished.

“The City of Edinburgh Council seem determined to make the same mistake twice,” said Skinner.

Pete Jacques, who advised on the velodrome in Glasgow and won two sprint bronzes in the 1990s, said he agreed “100 per cent” with Skinner’s position.

A council survey was launched in May to gather opinions from city residents and cycling clubs on the options which include a safe closed road circuit for riders to learn new skills, and proposals for new synthetic turf 3G football and rugby pitches to compensate for the loss of grass pitches on the site.

Councillor Richard Lewis, the city’s culture and sport chief, said there had been “overwhelming support” for a cycling hub in Hunters Hall.

He added: “We are lacking in dedicated cycling sports facilities. Hunters Hall is a project that I believe would tackle that.

“We have £1.215m of funding set aside for this project so we must be realistic in our vision. We need to find an affordable solution that supports the majority of cyclists and learners. An indoor velodrome may be on the wish lists of some of the city’s professional cyclists, but the capital and revenue costs of an indoor velodrome would simply be unaffordable to the council at this time, especially when the indoor Chris Hoy Velodrome – which cost £100m to construct – sits just 40 miles to the west of the city.”

A report and recommendations is due to go to the culture and sport committee on December 16 when they will recommend one of four options should be taken forward.