Council set to begin discussions to safeguard Tooting Bec athletics track

Published: 28 October 2014

Council officers are exploring possible new management proposals for the Tooting Bec athletics track in a bid to secure its long term future.

Next month councillors are likely to consider proposals that could involve seeking expressions of interest from local sports clubs, voluntary groups, charities and health and fitness professionals who could take over the day-to-day running of the track and all its amenities.

The aim would be to retain the track and its gym and field sports facilities as a fully open and accessible public sports venue.

Councillors on the community services overview and scrutiny committee are expected to be asked to consider this approach at their meeting on November 27. Informal discussions have already been held with staff who work at the track and they may also be able to put forward their own proposals to take over its management and run it as part of the proposed leisure and culture staff mutual.

The changes are being discussed as the council seeks to protect local services in the face of reductions to the grant it receives from the government. Over the next two years the council will need to find savings of at least £50m. This is in addition to the savings already achieved since 2010 of £80m.

Maintaining and operating the Tooting track currently costs the borough’s council tax payers more than £100,000 a year. It is one of two Olympic standard running tracks in Wandsworth – the other is in Battersea Park.

The council has ensured that the Tooting venue has been maintained to an exceptionally high standard. In partnership with Sport England and the London Marathon Trust it recently invested £150,000 in upgrading its eight lane running track, adding a new fitness studio and a brand new hammer cage while improvements were also made to its long jump, pole vault, hammer and discus facilities so that Grade ‘A’ athletics meetings could be staged there, while at Battersea Park’s Millennium Arena, work was recently completed on a £100,000 scheme to refurbish its eight lane running track.

Community services spokesman Cllr Jonathan Cook said: “There has been a lot of speculation recently on social media and elsewhere regarding the future of the track.

“I want to address these assumptions here and make sure that local people fully understand that our efforts are being directed towards keeping the athletics track open and ensuring it continues to play a really prominent role in sports and fitness and in the health and wellbeing of the borough.

“Councillors at next month’s scrutiny committee are expected to be asked to consider proposals that could see changes to the management structure of the track and seek expressions of interest in running the track on a day-to-day basis. This could easily include the staff who already work there or local athletics clubs, voluntary groups and other community based grassroots organisations.

“We believe that this approach offers the best hope of retaining this popular and well-used athletics track and if this idea is supported at next month’s committee then we will be able to begin our search in earnest for a suitable partner.”