A petition supported by Olympians and the MP for Tooting has been launched asking the council to re-surface Tooting Bec Athletics Track after it failed an inspection last summer.
Tooting Bec Athletics Track has been home to Herne Hill Harriers since the 1930s and the club has been using social media to promote the need for refurbishment after an unsuccessful bid to the council earlier this year.
The February 2020 Labosport report concluded that the track could be used for a further 18 months, until August/September 2021.
Dr Rosena Allin-Khan MP said: “Tooting Bec Athletics Track is a much-loved and well-utilised facility, both by Tooting residents and the wider London community.
“The track is a home to schools, clubs, and aspiring athletes – to lose such a valuable asset in our community will be a devastating blow to so many of our young people.
“I am urging Wandsworth Council to recognise the value of the track and commit to funding the resurfacing of this vital part of Tooting’s history – and future – without further delay.”
Tooting racing track has been used by many different atheletes throughout the years, including Olympian Jade Johnson who became a patron for Herne Hill Harriers in 2020.
Johnson said: “Having known I wanted to compete at the Olympics at aged 8. My family moved back to London when I was 11 years old.
“I bothered my mum non-stop about needing to join a running club. Herne Hill Harriers, at Tooting Track, was the closest one, and when I went for the first time I just loved the energy and vibe.
“It was exactly what I knew would start my journey to fulfilling my dream of making the Olympics.”
In 2015 a campaign called Keep The Track Running was launched by ex Tooting MP Mayor Sadiq Khan after a document listing the track as a potential site for closure was leaked by a Wandsworth councillor.
The club was later granted £130,167.25 for refurbishment by Sport England’s Community Investment Fund.
The club is hopeful that the grounds use will be extended until April 2022 but have not yet received confirmation from the council.
Around one third of the squad for the London Schools team are comprised of athletes from the club. The team also has two athletes pursuing Olympic ambitions and others aiming to compete at the European U20 and U23 championships.
In the year 2018/2019 the amount of people visiting Tooting Bec’s Athletics Track totalled 82,959.
Wandsworth Council this week claimed a detailed Labosport report showed the track can still be safely used for running.
The council’s environment and community services spokesman Cllr Steffi Sutters said: “We have seen some claims on social media in recent days that the track is crumbling, unusable and unsafe and that its future is somehow at risk. Let me say now that these claims are totally untrue.
“We fully support and encourage our residents, especially our young people, to engage in sports activities, which is why we provide top quality sports facilities across Wandsworth, including running tracks at both Battersea Park and Tooting Common.
“We want our local schools and clubs to use these facilities as often as possible. The athletics track at Tooting remains perfectly adequate for training purposes and for school sports events as we continue to monitor its condition we will continue to have discussions with local groups, schools and sports clubs about how it can best serve its users in the future.”
The petition in support of refurbishment is running on the council’s website until July 1.
Featured Image Credit: Hayley de la Motte