Hopes Team GB's Olympic success will regain momentum for South Shields BMX track plans

A biking enthusiast is hoping to harness Team GB’s medals success at the 2020 Olympics to press home his case for a new BMX track in the area.

Monday, 9th August 2021, 4:55 am
Mr Whiting's son and other participants at a recent BMX track event in Preston.

In a bid to generate some renewed momentum for the plans, Josh Whiting has pointed to the exploits of the national BMX racing team, which brought home two medals from the Tokyo games.

Mr Whiting, originally from West Yorkshire, helped launch a petition in early 2020 to canvass support for the BMX track proposals in the area.

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They argue it would help tackle obesity in the area, besides helping the local authority make progress with other social and public health objectives.

But Mr Whiting says talks have since stalled with the council – though chiefs say they are willing to work with community groups.

He told The Gazette: "We have had talks with the council and these seemed to be gaining some good momentum and heading in the right direction but since local elections it’s been radio silence from the department we had been getting on well with.

"I did then get in touch with the leader of the council which resulted in a phone call but again nothing has progressed.”

South Tyneside resident, Josh Whiting, at a recent BMX track event in Preston.

Mr Whiting’s preferred site for the proposals is at Temple Memorial Park, where a BMX track formerly stood during the 1980s.

Planning chiefs have told him the site may not be suitable, however, due to its previous use as a landfill area.

The borough council has secured funding and drawn up plans for other cycling projects in recent years, including a number of new cycle routes in the borough.

But Mr Whiting argues these projects are failing to convert residents to the cause.

L-R) Silver medalist Kye Whyte and gold medalist Bethany Shriever of Team Great Britain pose for a photograph while celebrate at the medal ceremony after the BMX final on day seven of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Ariake Urban Sports Park on July 30, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

"The council seems to think that, just by flicking a switch, they can turn everyone into cyclists,” he said.

“But actually cycle routes – and, just to be clear, I generally support them – can sometimes turn people against cyclists. We need cycle tracks to encourage kids to get into the sport and to normalise cycling for the next generation.

"By getting seven- and eight-year-olds on a BMX and normalising the use of a bike, that’ll help convince people in future – when we have an Olympic champion from South Shields and they might have kids coming through themselves.

"We’re just looking for somewhere we can give kids the opportunity to be part of a club with a track to be proud of, and to develop the champions of the future."

Crowds at a Preston BMX track event Mr Whiting says he attended recently.

South Tyneside Council told The Gazette ‘officers will arrange a further meeting’ with a representative from Mr Whiting’s group over the coming weeks.

A spokesperson for the council said: "Council officers are happy to work with community groups to discuss opportunities and bring forward facilities of this nature, however any future development would require suitable available land and significant funding.

"Relevant officers will arrange a further meeting with the lead from the group in the coming weeks."

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Mr Whiting's son and other participants at a recent BMX track event in Preston.

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