Bristol City Council rejects calls to save historic running track due to housing development

The proposed development will see the athletics track disappear from South Bristol.
-Credit: (Image: Goram Homes)

Bristol City Council has said that it does not support a campaign to bring back a running track into use as a facility due to housing plans. Local residents have campaigned to save the Whitchurch Athletics Track from being transformed into housing.

The track was opened in 1973 and was once a training hub for up-and-coming athletes in Bristol and the wider area. Olympians including gold medallist Jason Gardener had used the track in their training and joined a growing list of nearly 2,500 signatures in a petition to save the historic track.

Despite the number of residents who are backing the campaign, Bristol City Council has said that it does not support keeping the athletics track due to a housing project in the wider Hengrove Park. A total of 1,435 homes, of which half will be affordable housing, will be built as well as a new public park and community facilities installed over the decade-long plan.

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The track, which closed in 2010, has been described by the council as a “key part of the council’s city-wide housebuilding initiative”. The council says that it understands the concerns of residents and has since funded a new track in Whitehall.

A spokesperson for Bristol City Council said: “Due to its age and condition, the council made the decision to close Whitchurch Athletics Track in 2010. The Whitchurch site has since become a key part of the council’s city-wide housebuilding initiative, adding vital new homes to Bristol’s strained housing stock.

“We understand the concerns of residents over this decision and have since funded a new track in Whitehall which is accessible to the wider community and plays host to regular clubs and events throughout the year. The nearby Hengrove Leisure Centre also offers varied opportunities for residents to get active, and we encourage residents to also use the excellent open space at Whitchurch Airfield for exercise.

“However, we remain committed to promoting sport and activity in our communities, and whilst any campaign to bring Whitchurch Athletics Track back into use as a sports facility is not supported by the council due to its impact on housing delivery, we remain open to discussions with local residents about how we can provide track facilities in South Bristol.”

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The petition, which was started by John Pearce, said: “In 1973, Whitchurch Athletics Track opened, and for many years, countless up-and-coming athletes from South Bristol and the wider area trained and achieved great success through the facilities it offered. Today, it stands empty of athletes, empty of competition and offering no opportunity to the local athletes of the future.

“We want to change this and not only see the track fully restored but also used to benefit the community and wider area for present and future generations. Regenerating Whitchurch Athletics Track will provide a much-needed space for physical activity, fostering talent in young athletes while promoting health and well-being in our community.”

The athletics track is still used today by the Southville Running Club, which uses the track from April to September. The Bristol Cycling Centre is also homed at the track but will move to Lawrence Weston once developments begin towards the end of the year.

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