Riverside Motorcross Park to be Closed!

By: Emily Randall

Motocross enthusiasts from Riverside MX track in Dartford, may be forced to switch off their engines indefinitely if an application to extend the term of the lease is denied.

A public meeting was held at the Joyce Green site on Saturday 22nd September to discuss the application for use as a riding track, for three years temporarily. It has been recommended for refusal.

Alec Lauder, Chairman and Development Control Manager, opened the meeting in opposition to the proposal. He said: "Recreational use is not appropriate in this location." He cited green belt and wildlife policies as the main reasons why the application had met with criticism.

The Bridge Development, which is currently under construction and not due to complete for another five years, was also considered to be a leading factor in the decision process. Mr Lauder said of the track: "It affects the visual impact on the character of the area and conflicts with the longer aspirations of the site."

In support of the application, Graham Simpkin, consultant for the applicant, explained why green belt land should be made available to the public: "Open recreational needs are very important and is the purpose of keeping land available. All sections of the community should have access to enjoy recreational activities. Take for instance golf courses, there are many in the borough but there has never been a requirement to justify a need for them. We only want a temporary application for three years. The track is only used two to three times a week, the rest of the time it is completely open. This is not a justification for refusing the application."

Kent Wildlife had filed an objection to the proposal on the grounds that the use was harming the environment. Martin Townsend is an ecologist who has been monitoring the marsh land for the last three years. He said: "In summary I can find no harmful effects. I have studied the birds in particular and they have become used to the activity. Wildlife coincists quite happily along side it."

Riverside MX has been a valuable resource for youth projects outside the borough as far as South East London. Joan McHardy, spokesperson for 'The Young Lewisham Project' attended the meeting to show the charities support. She said: "We work with young people aged from 13-19 who are not really succeeding in mainstream education. Through the open college network and facilities such as this track, we can help these youths. The track is a low cost facility and without it they would have to go a long distance. The track focuses their attentions in different directions and teaches them responsibility."

Local police fear the closure of the track could result in more problems for the community and have shown their support for the application. In a letter, Sergeant Pete Smith said: "I was impressed with the facilities and the number of riders using it. Without sites such as these, I am sure there would be many more nuisance bikes using land illegally and causing problems for local councils and police."

Andrew Wakefield, 27 from Gravesend has been riding for ten years and is a frequent visitor to the track. He said: "I have grown up in a community where there are not enough places to use off road motorcycles. The council are all too quick to have us prosecuted for riding on their land then when we finally find a track that we can use legally and safely, they want to close it down. There is another smaller track nearby but it would not be able to cope with the extra number of riders. It has less challenges and safety measures, most riders drive straight past it. This track has a great atmosphere and families meet here. Everyone is really responsible and I can't understand why they want to close it down."

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