Monday, 18 July 2016

A sporting powerhouse

BORED with the GC race in le Tour - the lead is held in a vice like grip by Sky’s Chris Froome with no other team able to challenge him as they near the Alps - I decide to write my  latest blog about a different sporting powerhouse – this one in Dartford, Kent!

Well, it could be, if someone with the money recognises the potential for transforming the vast indoor space of the Littlebrook Power Station into a  cathedral of cycle sport. And the grounds outside of the building into a road circuit.

The man with the vision is Tony Mack, the former racing man who inspired the creation of Europe’s largest cycle park, the £8 million Cyclopark near Gravesend which opened in 2012, the year of the London Olympics. It became an immediate success.

Cyclopark is a brilliant venue.   I’ve spent a couple of hours riding the 3km road circuit there.  It also caters for skateboarders and runners.

It would never happened but for Mack who saw the potential when a decision was taken to realign the A2, so opening up the narrow stretch of land now occupied by the Cyclopark.

Now Mack has recognised another potential winner in the old power station. His idea has made headlines in the local press.

Mack envisages the former power station’s cathedral like buildings housing a range of facilities, including a velodrome and indoor football.  The surrounding site has potential for a road circuit, a skateboard park and running tracks.

It could also become a heritage and cultural centre, he says. And the tall chimney could become an observation platform with views across Kent, Essex and London.

There is a precedent for turning old power stations to other uses. I refer to the Tate Modern in London, the former power station on the Thames which is now the museum for modern art.  It was dubbed Power to Art. The Dartford project would be Power to Sport.

Could Mack realise his latest dream?

He is keen to drum up support and has written to sports minister Tracey Crouch, Kent County Council, Dartford Council and Sport England.

Saturday, 9 July 2016

What Brexit means for cycling


WITH Parliament in crisis over the Brexit vote to leave the EU,  cycle campaigners demands for more transport funding for cycling is hardly going to a get a look in, it seem to me. 
My previous blog listed the many good EU agreements which have raised living standards and are now in danger of being lost.

In this blog, I ask what now for the future of cycling as transport?

I put the question to Roger Geffen, Cycling UK's Policy Director. 

This is what he told me.

Brexit has relatively few direct effects on cycle campaigning, given that most of the issues we’re dealing with are devolved.  It does however weaken our ability to argue that the UK should be taking heed of the Luxembourg Declaration  On the other hand, it could give us an opportunity to push for regulations on safer lorry designs, avoiding the delays caused by the French and Swedish governments – see

If anything, the impacts on cycle campaigning are more likely to be indirect. In particular, Brexit threatens the air quality regulations which environmental law firm Client Earth has been using very effectively to apply legal pressure on the Government to deliver a genuinely effective air quality strategy.  The possible loss of EU climate change targets might also undermine the cycling cause somewhat, but we do still have the Climate Change Act 2005 in domestic legislation, so that’s probably less of a threat.

However the most serious impact of Brexit may well prove to be the strain it places on civil service capacity and parliamentary scheduling, to replace or repeal a vast amount of EU-related regulation.  The number of officials working on walking and cycling is already tiny, but we now face the possibility that it could be further downsized, as civil service managers struggle to free up enough officials to unravel all that so-called “red tape”.  Yet some of those rules are really important.  The UK already suffers around 24,000 early deaths annually due to pollution, and my fear is that this death toll could rise if air quality regulations are relaxed or repealed in the name of “economic efficiency.
These issues, outlined above by Geffen, important as they are, pale into insignificance when you look at the chaos threatened by Brexit .

Right now,    Labour is tearing itself apart and the Tories are in disarray having to find a new prime minister. They must choose between someone who political commentators describe as moderately mad, Theresa May and a completely inexperienced and bonkers candidate with unproven economic nous,  Andrea Leadsom.
One of them will replace David Cameron who resigned as prime minister, bequeathing this mess to the nation when he could have avoided it by refusing to hold the referendum in the first place. Me? I am still in shock and some days I awake feeling sick to the stomach at the realisation that 17 million people should vote for Britain to leave the European Union. This is a suicide pact in my view – which could leave Britain in the hands of a far right Tory party whose first task will be strip out all the good regulatory things EU membership has brought us which, ironically, will sting the very people who voted Brexit under the misguided impression  their lives would get better!
This has polarised the nation, changed us for ever more and not for the better, no thanks to liars Boris Johnson and Michael Gove and Nigel Farage whose twisted and fraudulent campaign  conned millions into putting an X in the wrong box.
Their false claims - most notably about the migration crisis – energised closet racists and xenophobes who now feel free to poison the air we breathe.