A major legacy of the 2012 London Olympic and Paralympic Games was the increased interest generated in sports participation and healthy lifestyles across the UK, particularly amongst families and children. It was in this context that the landowners, Essex County Council (ECC) and The Salvation Army, came together in a unique partnership to deliver the Hadleigh Park Mountain Bike Olympic Legacy Project.
The project, winner of a 2016 RTPI Awards for Planning Excellence in the ‘Excellence in Planning for Community and Well-Being’ category, includes new and improved recreational trails and facilities and a new visitor centre ‘hub’, designed by LSI Architects, on land within Hadleigh Farm and Hadleigh Country Park. These proposals were at the centre of a vision for expanding and enhancing the Country Park, providing opportunities for people to more fully access, enjoy and appreciate the area’s natural and historic environment.
The new visitor centre ‘hub’ provides a primary gateway to the network of recreational trails. The Hub also offers community facilities and business opportunities, including the provision of replacement business units.
The provision of new sport and recreation opportunities, together with enhanced green infrastructure and improvements to the accessibility of the natural environment, provides direct benefits to residents’ and visitors’ health and well-being. Hadleigh Park is highlighted by Natural England as a good practice green infrastructure case study to show how environmental and access improvements have been an important legacy of the Olympics. Uniquely, the Project is also making a significant contribution to supporting The Salvation Army’s Hadleigh Training Centre mission by providing additional community training and education outreach opportunities.
Crucially at a time of public sector funding constraints, the Project has also helped Essex County Council secure a financially sustainable future for Hadleigh Country Park as a valuable green space for communities in Castle Point and throughout South Essex.
The Hadleigh Park Olympic Mountain Bike Legacy Project provides a positive balance of environmental, social and economic benefits that is already having a fantastic impact on the quality of life for local residents and visitors, as well as enhancing the area’s natural and historic environment.
The hub was constructed by Morgan Sindall, with Chris Blandford Associates acting as planning and environmental consultants and landscape masterplanners.
Charles Johnstone, Property Director of Sport England commented that Sport England “is proud to have invested in such a dynamic proposal to build on the Olympic legacy locally in Essex, and develop a healthier community, and the next generation of active mountain biking enthusiasts.”