Newts slow Hog Hill development

London cyclists will have to wait longer for Eastway replacement

London cyclists looking for a replacement to the demolished Eastway circuit will have to wait longer.

The latest from the London Development Agency (LDA), which is in charge of building a replacement track at Hog Hill, is that clearing great crested newts, a protected species, from the new site is taking longer than expected. It's estimated that it will take another 35 days to trap all the remaining newts. Only then will construction of the southern part of the circuit be allowed to happen, although work is expected to start soon on the northern section.

The LDA's best case scenario is that the area be newt-free before the hibernation period starts. In that case, the Hog Hill circuit could be finished and ready by late April. But if the newts aren't all captured before winter, the track won't be ready until August 2008.

The delays have led British Cycling to start negotiating with the LDA to extend the financial support provided to help events and clubs in 2007, as well as to gain access to the Royal Docks to hold races.

At a recent meeting of the Greater London Authority Olympic Plenary Session, the LDA's CEO Manny Lewis promised that there would be something in place for next season.

"We [the LDA] must produce an appropriate cycle circuit for Eastway users by March 2008, which is the start of their cycling season," said Lewis. "I am now making a commitment that we will achieve that, either at the Hog Hill site, providing that we can deal with the newt issues in time, or if we can't produce that outcome because of the complexity of the situation with newts, that we will make provision at the Royal Docks for Eastway, so that they have one central point where they can have quality cycling. And even though we have this issue with the newts we will still produce some cycling provision at Hog Hill on time. I have now committed to this alternative."

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