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Cycling tracks opened at revamped community centre

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New pump and cyclocross tracks have been opened at a St Albans community centre which is being revamped.

The tracks at the Cottonmill Community and Cycling Centre, in Sopwell, are free to use without booking for around four weeks.

They will then be managed by St Albans Cycle Hub, a community interest company, which will be in charge of bookings and organising events.

The pump track – which can also be used by skateboarders –includes banked turns, rollers and other features.

These allow riders to generate speed by driving their body weight into the bike on the downslopes, known as pumping, with the aim of completing the course without pedalling.

The pump track is surrounded by an outer cyclocross course to help cyclists practise their off-road skills on challenging terrain.

A new leisure track is due to be added shortly to allow access to people in wheelchairs and beginners.

The tracks are part of a £2.7 million project by St Albans City and District Council to replace the Marlborough Pavilion with a new community centre.

The Pavilion has been demolished and a new main building is due to open in late May or early June.

Dale Phillipson, the Council’s Strategic Director for Strategy, Policy and Transformation, said:

We are delighted that these two high-quality tracks are now open for use and believe they will be a great community asset for years to come for Sopwell and St Albans residents to enjoy.

They are free to use with no restrictions until the Cycle Hub opens in around four weeks’ time.

The hub will then be responsible for all cycling facilities and activities at the centre which will include workshops, bike repairs and club activities, available for residents across the District.

The main building with full disabled access will include a central hall of 100 square metres, a café, a kitchen suitable for event catering and a Changing Places facility.

It will be used by Sopwell community groups for different activities such as scout meetings, yoga and dance classes, play groups and lunch clubs as well as one-off events.

The centre will be accessible to all with wudu wash facilities for members of the Muslim community to carry out ablutions before prayer.

There will also be a dementia-friendly Quiet Room for anyone to use for peaceful escape, study, personal reflection or prayer.

The Council has worked with local groups on the project including Cottonmill and Sopwell Hub (CaSH), Sopwell Residents Association, the Sopwell Community Trust and the Verulam Cycling Club.

Most of the funding has been provided by the Council with a number of other organisations also contributing.

British Cycling’s Places to Ride Fund and Sport England gave £350,000 and CaSH gave £79,000 from fundraising events and donations.

The Health Protection Board gave £78,000 towards building costs with a further £150,000 to enable outreach work to be carried out by Citizens Advice St Albans, Mind in Mid Herts and Communities 1st..

This was to improve the wellbeing and mental health of residents in Sopwell impacted by COVID. 

Mr Phillipson said:

Providing this new community and cycling centre has been a challenging and complex project.

We have worked closely with the local community who have taken an active role in the concept and delivery of this first-class facility – the only one of its type in the region. It will be a great addition for Sopwell residents and the rest of the District when the whole site is up and running in the summer.

Michelle Mackenzie, Chair of CaSH, said:

We very happy to have been involved in this project from the beginning and we're hugely excited for the opening of the brand new Cottonmill Community and Cycling Centre.

We would like to thank our amazing Sopwell community, fellow stakeholders and local businesses who've been extremely supportive throughout this project. We can't wait to see the residents of Sopwell and the wider District using and enjoying these much-needed new facilities.

Pictures: the pump track.

Contact for the media: John McJannet, Principal Communications Officer: 01727-819533,