Temporary structures approved for Commonwealth Games mountain biking event

With less than 100 days to go before the Commonwealth Games open, Cannock Chase councillors have given the green light for temporary structures at the mountain biking venue.

Birmingham 2022
Birmingham 2022

Athletes from across the globe will be welcomed to Cannock Chase Forest Centre this summer, alongside thousands of spectators. A new trail has been created for the event as part of a £900,000 investment and it will remain in place afterwards for other visitors to enjoy after the games have finished.

On Wednesday, Cannock Chase Council’s planning committee voted unanimously to approve plans for temporary structures at the forest centre at Birches Valley, near Rugeley.

These include a spectators’ area with stand, shelter, toilets and refreshment and merchandise units, a field of play, operations and broadcast compounds and an athletes’ preparation area. Security fencing will also be installed around the site perimeter.

The mountain biking event is set to take place on Wednesday, August 3, but there will be opportunities in the days leading up to the competition for athletes to familiarise themselves with the course, committee members were told.

A report to the committee said: “Approximately 3,000 ticketed spectators and 9,000 non-ticketed spectators are expected to attend the event along the mountain biking course. It is expected that there will be 85 athletes and team official, 25 technical officials, 80 Games Family and 243 members of the media.

“It is also expected that there will be 382 members of the peak workforce and 1, 440 workforce members in total which includes staff, volunteers and contractors. Installation and decommissioning of the overlay structures would be between June and August 2022.

“Vehicular access to the event would be via the existing Cannock Chase Forest Centre access off Birches Valley. No changes to this access are proposed as part of the development.

“This access would also be permitted to be used by spectators walking or cycling to the event (and) a pedestrian access is also available from Penkridge Bank Road. This currently comprises a narrow path and it is understood that the path is proposed to be widened to 3m by Forestry England.

“As a large proportion of spectators are expected to travel to the event by private car, Four Oaks Farm is proposed to be used as a car park to support the event and would provide up to 1,655 car parking spaces. Car parking is required to be pre-booked with spectators able to pre-book car parking spaces up to 90 minutes before the start of the event before gates open.

“Parking would be chargeable and it is understood the cost would be in the region of £10. Secure cycle storage will be made available within the application site for spectators choosing to travel to the site by cycle.”

Natural England has raised no objections to the plans, subject to mitigation measures including stewards being present at Rugeley Town Railway Station, along walking and cycling routes from the town centre to the venue and at local car parks.

But the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) Unit raised concerns about the proposals for parking provision and spectator access being “insufficiently considered and managed” and the number of spectators arriving by private vehicle being underestimated.

A letter from Brindley Health Parish Council detailed road safety issues at the access point from the temporary car park at Four Oaks Farm to the event area via Shooting Butts Road.

It said: “The access is on to a fast national speed limit road (Shooting Butts Road). The access is very close – approximately three metres – from the junction with Penkridge Bank Road.

“There are no pedestrian walkways or pathways on Penkridge Bank Road or Shooting Butts Road, providing safe passage to the Birches Valley event site.”

The parish council has raised no objections to the hosting of the mountain biking event on Cannock Chase however and “hopes the event will be an absolute success and that the event day runs smoothly for staff and volunteers, participants, spectators and local residents”.

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