At last night's Derby City Council Planning Committee meeting the application to build an outdoor cycle track on the edge of the Sanctuary Nature Reserve was passed by the narrowest of margins. It was agreed that there would be certain conditions attached, these being with regard to the times that floodlighting would be switched on and operations during the construction period. In view of the loss of land (18%) from the existing reserve, the plan included new compensation land on the North side of the River Derwent.
There had been a well organised nationwide campaign by wildlife groups to block the proposal and over 1000 people had objected. They had tried every trick in the book, even suggesting that toxic dust would be generated by the passage of cycles and that there would be "a lot of noise, including shouting". Other fatuous objections were : "Nobody uses cycle paths". " UK weather doesn't support cycling". "There is already a cycle path alongside the river". "Cycling events are already held elsewhere in the City, including Moorways". "Site is on the flood plain of the river". " The track should be on brownfield land". (IT IS!.)
Over 600 letters of support for the proposal had been received by the Council, but such things are not decided by a public vote, and in all such cases opponents are much more likely to be vocal than are supporters. This is not "public opinion", the vast majority of the public couldn't care less either way.
The public gallery was full with equal numbers of supporters and opponents to hear 3 minute presentations from the RSPB, Derbyshire Wildlife Trust and a Council Officer. Councillors then put forward a few questions and made comments. At this stage it looked as though the issue was lost until it came to the vote when six voted for the motion and five against.
Sad though it is to make a small reduction in the area of the nature reserve, claims that it is "destroyed" are a gross overstatement. There are several other nature reserves around the City of Derby and much open land alongside the Trent and Derwent Valleys. Route 6 of the National Cycle Network runs alongside the Derwent and like so many of our local Greenways, is an important wildlife corridor.
Neither the existing nature reserve nor the cycle track will have uncontrolled public access, being enclosed by fencing. The cycle track will be of enormous benefit to cyclists, especially the young, and it will be used by disabled athletes and runners, for whom using the public roads has become a very dangerous activity.
Several alternative sites for the track had been considered, but it is almost essential to have it as an adjunct to the Velodrome, which has changing rooms, bike parking and a café.