Location: The mountain biking venue for the London 2012 Olympics at Hadleigh Farm is adjacent to Hadleigh Country Park, which lies within the Thames Gateway in South Essex.
Aim: The creation of an elite mountain biking venue at Hadleigh Farm for the London 2012 Olympic Games provided an opportunity to expand investment in the long-term sporting and recreational facilities within the area. A partnership between landowners, councils and Natural England has capitalised on this opportunity to enhance green infrastructure and improve the quality and accessibility of the natural environment for the benefit of local communities and visitors.
Background: Hadleigh Farm and Country Park is set on a downland steep scarp slope. The Farm is owned by the Salvation Army and the Country Park was established on Essex County Council and Castle Point Borough Council land. The site includes areas designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest, a Special Protection Area and Ramsar site (Wetlands of International Importance, especially as waterfowl habitat) and a Local Wildlife Site, and contains several Scheduled Monuments.
Status: Construction work on the Olympic course began in July 2010 and was completed in March 2011. The course was used in the Olympics for two days in August 2012. Construction of legacy mountain bike trails and facilities is being undertaken in 2013.
- The main challenge for the project has been to integrate the various mountain biking courses and associated visitor facilities within a designated and ecologically rich landscape.
- The legacy planning application included additional mountain bike trails to improve and enhance the network of existing paths and trails across Hadleigh Country Park and Hadleigh Farm.
- Following the Games, the Olympic track has been adapted for use by a greater range of elite and advanced riders and additional biking trails are being created for the general public.
- Focused investment triggered by the Olympics has offered significant opportunities for Essex County Council, The Salvation Army and Natural England to improve and develop the resources of the site – improving the green infrastructure and increasing the socio-economic, public health and recreational potential of the wider area.
- Within the Country Park, a Higher Level Stewardship (HLS) agreement has been set up with Essex County Council to deliver more focused and targeted management.
- The Olympic legacy extension to the agreement will include grazing by Red Poll, a rare breed of cattle native to East Anglia and introduced through the Essex Grazing and Grasslands Project.
- It is expected that this HLS agreement will help to bring the SSSI into favourable condition through a programme of scrub and grassland management and a targeted extension of the cattle grazing regime.
- In time, broader environmental functions and knock-on benefits will be gained through more sustainable grassland management including better soil nutrient retention, enhanced carbon sequestration, improved water quality and a broader pollination season and nectar supply for insects.
Findings and Lessons:
- Establishing a partnership across the Olympic and Legacy programmes between LOCOG, Essex County Council, The Salvation Army, local communities, Natural England, Castle Point Borough Council and other organisations has ensured the delivery of a joint vision.
- Collaboration allowed the expertise of a range of professionals to be pooled effectively and ensured a consistent approach. Early and extensive pre-planning application negotiations for the legacy facilities together with extensive local consultation has been key to establishing confidence, openness and trust between all parties. This has enabled shared solutions to be found to meet the challenge of creating the additional recreational trails and facilities within the sensitive SSSI landscape.
- One of the most challenging aspects of the project has been to avoid confusion between the environmental benefits outlined in the legacy planning application and those already secured through the existing stewardship agreements. The Natural England project team worked hard to maintain a separation between the improvement needed as mitigation for the legacy proposals and the negotiated commitments for enhancing the management of the landscape through the HLS agreement.
London 2012 Legacy
Hadleigh Farm and Country Park Green Infrastructure Case Study
Hadleigh Farm sustainability fact sheet