Runners high: Wandsworth Council considers Tooting Bec track refurbishment

Athletes and MP celebrate as a £527,000 plan to resurface Tooting Bec Athletics Track is likely to be approved in Wandsworth Councillors meeting next Thursday.

The track failed an inspection by Labosport in February 2020 which meant the facility lost its competition license in September and would be stripped of its training license by April 2022.

A petition launched by athletics club Herne Hill Harriers and Tooting MP Rosena Allin-Khan in May urged the council to resurface the track and attracted 2300 signatures.

“We did it – our local campaign to save Tooting Bec Athletics Track is a success,” Allin-Khan said.

“The Council should never have waited this long, but I am delighted our beloved track is finally getting the resurface it deserves.”

Herne Hill Harriers, founded in 1889, have called the Tooting Bec Athletics Track home since the 1930s.

Club members include 2008 Beijing Olympian Jade Johnson and 2021 Tokyo Olympian Katie Snowden, both of whom supported the campaign to resurface the track.

Johnson said: “I’m over the moon that Tooting Bec Athletics track is going to get the investment it so desperately needs to allow the community, athletes, and coaches to feel confident training, competing and using it to keep themselves mentally and physically fit.”

Herne Hill Harriers club president Glen Keegan said: “It’s great news!

“The track is essential for everyone from potential Olympians to running and jumping enthusiasts.”

He explained that the old track had lost its bounce, meaning sprinters and medium-distance runners training with poorly-padded spike shoes risked injury.

The club has continued to train on the track, but has had to forgo the usual training with spikes for normal running shoes.

The club would be forced to find alternative training facilities – which would be harder for younger members – without the investment in a new track, Keegan added.

The Harriers are not the only ones that stand to benefit from the resurfacing.

Around half of the 83,000 visitors to the Tooting Bec Athletics Track in 2019/20 used the track, 10 schools use the track regularly and a further 42 schools use the track for sports days.

Tooting Bec Athletics Track also has facilities for shot putting, long jumping, pole vaulting, discus and hammer throwing, a gym, and seating for 400 spectators.

Councillors on the community services and open spaces overview and scrutiny committee will meet on 25 November to consider funding the improvements.

In a report about the plans, Wandsworth Council’s Director of Environmental and Community Services, Paul Chadwick, called the improvements invaluable and recommended the committee approve them.

Speaking to SWL, a representative of the council explained they had always intended to refurbish the track, but first had to identify a source of funding.

They mentioned that the council tried to secure grant funding from Sport England and UK Athletics, but pandemic-pressures meant grant capital was not available.

The council decided to fund renovations entirely from its budgets, also announcing a £3 million investment plan for the neighbouring Tooting Bec Lido.

Renovation work on the track, if approved, should be completed by the start of the athletic season next summer, the representative added.

Photo credit: Free to use.

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