Revealed: New cycle track vision for site of old RAF Coltishall base
- Credit: SIMON FINLAY
A new cycle racing circuit is to be opened at the former RAF Coltishall site, under an ambitious scheme announced today.
In its heyday, RAF Coltishall roared with the sound of Spitfires, Lightnings and Jaguars.
Now, under an ambitious new scheme announced today, it could soon echo once again to the sound of speed – albeit the somewhat quieter whirr of racing bicycles.
Negotiations are under way to create a cycle facility, PedalPark, which would be the first of its kind in the region.
Under the plans, which already have the support of Active Norfolk and British Cycling, the base's three- mile perimeter track will become a race track, giving cyclists of all abilities the opportunity to ride without the worry of traffic.
The new facility would be run as a not-for-profit social enterprise and is the brainchild of Neil Turner, 49, who co-owns bike shop Pedal Revolution, which has outlets in Norwich, Gorleston and Cromer.
'For years I have been looking for a venue and when I saw the old RAF site I thought I could create something terrific there.
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'For such a popular and successful sport, we have nothing like this. We just expect people to ride on the road. My passion is to create a long-term venue for this part of the world. Somewhere people can ride on smooth Tarmac and traffic-free.'
The base was bought by Norfolk County Council for £4m in January 2013 after it stood empty for more than six years. Now known as Scottow Enterprise Park, it is already home to a range of businesses, and a solar farm.
Mr Turner has agreed a 'commercial' lease for part of the site, which he expects to be signed within days.
It would cover use of the perimeter track, which is already in a good enough state to be used by bikes, and also the base's former operations room, which it is hoped will be converted into a clubhouse, with cafe, changing areas and a workshop. There are also plans for a 'grandstand' area near to the start and finish line. The site would be open every day from 6pm to 10pm and on Saturdays from 8am until 4pm.
Mr Turner said the entire scheme should cost no more than £300,000. The costs are being underwritten by his retail business, but he hopes that as the project is to be not-for-profit, he will be able to secure funding from other organisations, such as Sport England, to speed up the site's development.
The nearest alternative venues on a similar scale are currently at the Olympic Park and Redbridge Cycling Centre, both in east London.
'This is about creating a high-quality sports and leisure facility that is unique to our region,' Mr Turner explained. 'It will offer grass roots riding, training, coaching and competition across a wide range of ages and abilities. I feel deeply passionate about that, about creating a place for sport, communities, but also a place where families can come for the day too, park up and ride around.'
Under his vision, the project has three strands:
Creating an environment for the sport to thrive for riders of all abilities. The Lotus Cycle Racing League club, the region's only season-long racing championship, will move to PedalPark and weekly race and ride coaching would be held there. Around 20 top events would be held there each year.
Making a place that families can cycle, away from traffic and for fun. It will link up with the Bure Valley path, from Hoveton to Aylsham, the Marriott's Way, which connects from the Bure Valley, and the Three Rivers Way, which is in the pipeline.
Helping the vulnerable in local communities, giving them a place to learn technical skills to take into the workplace while instilling motivation and purpose. Mr Turner is already spearheading the Great Yarmouth Bike Project which helps those with mental health problems to develop new skills and boost confidence levels. At the new site, such a scheme would be extended.
A spokesman for Norfolk County Council said: 'We are in discussions about the possibility of a 'cycling centre' being established at Scottow Enterprise Park which would generate useful income for the county council by putting a disused building to use and also potentially see parts of the site used by local cycling clubs.
'The county council recognises the potential positive health benefits for local residents the proposal could bring, subject to existing commercial activity not being disrupted. However, it should be stressed that although this is an exciting concept with great potential, no agreement has yet been reached.'
PedalPark is looking to track the habits and interests of cyclists. To take part in the online survey visit www.pedalrevolution.co.uk/PedalPark.