'We find this situation incomprehensible': Calls to restore Bristol athletics track to former glory

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“It stands empty of athletes, empty of competition, and offering no opportunity to the local athletes of the future”

Hundreds of people have signed a petition calling for a running track in Bristol to be restored to its former glory.          

The petition is calling for the former Whitchurch Athletics Track to be regenerated to provide a “much-needed space for physical activity”.       

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The track, which opened in 1973, has been used as the Bristol Family Cycling Centre since 2016 - but the council plans to relocate it to Lawrence Weston to make way for new housing.   

Bristol City Council has been contacted for comment.  

The former Whitchurch Athletics Track - now used as the  Bristol Family Cycling CentreThe former Whitchurch Athletics Track - now used as the  Bristol Family Cycling Centre
The former Whitchurch Athletics Track - now used as the Bristol Family Cycling Centre | Google

The petition to save the facility has been started by Whitchurch resident John Pearce and already has more than 800 signatures.  

He 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. 

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“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.  

“At the present stage we are looking to gather local opinion to the 'idea' of the track being regenerated.”  

There are plans to build housing in place of the old running track There are plans to build housing in place of the old running track
There are plans to build housing in place of the old running track | Goram Homes

The track is part of the wider Hengrove Park site, where plans to build up to 1,435 homes were approved by the government in 2020. In 2022, the scheme was given to the council’s own housing company Goram Homes.       

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The track will be removed as part of the development, with the council announcing plans in 2022 for a new cycling centre in Lawrence Weston to replace the existing Whitchurch facility.

Two of Pearce’s children are part of the Bristol and West Athletics club, which sees him having to drive from Whitchurch to Whitehall up to three times a week so they can be coached.    

He told BristolWorld: “We are committed to their development so make the sacrifice but for those in South Bristol who have athletic potential but not the means to travel across the city, their development in the sport will be remote.  

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“To the best of my knowledge the city and county of Bristol, as large as it is, currently has no tracks that can hold athletic competitions. We find this situation incomprehensible.” 

Among those backing the petition is rugby player Ellis Genge, who grew up in Knowle West and used the Whitchurch track in his sports development.            

A Facebook group has also been set up, where people are invited to share memories for those who remember the track’s past and hopes for those who believe it has a future.  

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