Runners re-new push for community track

A NEW community athletics track for Ely is still a possibility despite the difficult economic conditions, campaigners said this week.

Ely Runners has re-launched its push for a new six-lane athletics track in the city but recognises that the district council’s support is crucial to help it get the project off the ground.

Plans for a new southern bypass and Government spending cuts had put the project on hold, but the club believes that the area is desperately lacking a suitable facility for athletes and is keen to get the track back on the agenda.

Ely Runners’ John Turner said: “If you look at any major settlement across the country you will see that they have a running track but Ely doesn’t, despite the increase in younger people that the city’s growth has attracted.

“I don’t think the council yet fully realise the impact that the track could have and the amount of long-term good it will do for the community.

“To be based at a community athletics track would make such a beneficial difference to the opportunities offered by Ely Runners, particularly for our growing junior section.

“This would also provide a much needed competition and training facility for all the schools in the local area. At present we have to advise potential track and field athletes to go elsewhere.”

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A feasibility study carried out by the district council back in 2009 concluded that there was scope in the city for a six-lane running track and club house at a number of possible sites.

One of those considered was the Ely Outdoor Sports Association, on Downham Road, with the second site being the King’s School’s Brand Field site, between Angel Drove and the City of Ely Golf Club.

Since the study was announced, the King’s School withdrew its offer of Brand Field after discussions with the district council about a possible bypass for the city that included cutting across its land.

In recent weeks, however, plans for the bypass have moved away from using King’s land and Ely Runners is keen to see pro-active discussions about the athletics track re-kindled once more.

The Mayor of Ely’s Sports Initiative has long supported the project and secretary Sean Lines, said: “As regards funding for provision of facilities on the field, there are still opportunities open for financial support from various sources including sports organisations, trusts, waste recycling offset funds, the lottery and commercial sponsors.”

In 2010, Ely Runners set up a special fund to put towards the proposed community track as part of its planning and development. To date the club has raised almost �21,000.

It is understood that the club and its partners has also been in talks with agents acting for incoming supermarket giant Sainsbury’s about the possibility of new funding while other avenues were also being explored.

Cllr Richard Hobbs, said: “Whilst the council’s priority remains a new leisure village incorporating a new swimming facility, we reiterate that we would support any organisation, local council or club from across East Cambridgeshire who wanted to develop a public access athletics track. However, given the tough financial conditions that everyone is experiencing, we have not had anyone come forward with plans so far.”