The Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) today announced that, due to the risks of contamination issues at the planned Spitalbrook site in Broxbourne, Hertfordshire, an alternative site nearby, also in Broxbourne, is now being considered as the potential replacement venue for the Canoe Slalom events for London 2012 Olympic Games.  

The alternative site is 6 miles south of Spitalbrook and remains within the Broxbourne borough. Given the suitability of the site and its similarity to Spitalbrook, the current outline venue designs could largely be transferred and accommodated to the new site.    

The original venue plans for Spitalbrook were based on investigation documents which identified the site as having a low risk of contamination.  However, further site investigation work led by the ODA in partnership with the Lee Valley Regional Park Authority (LVRPA) and the Environment Agency (EA), has since found evidence of contamination across the area, including hydrocarbons (i.e. petrol, diesel) and tar products, believed to have come from previous light industrial use on the site.  

The Spitalbrook site also lacks a layer of clay beneath the surface and the Environment Agency (EA) has concerns that should construction take place on top of the ground there is no natural barrier to stop contaminants and there is the risk of contamination leaching across the site.

Investigations and planning work into the possible use of the new site is continuing. Should a decision be taken to re-locate the venue, a case will then be presented to the International Canoeing Federation and the International Olympic Committee who would then need to give their approval before the new site could be confirmed. This is likely to happen by the end of the year.

David Higgins, Chief Executive of the ODA, said:

"Although the Spitalbrook site investigations are still continuing, the initial results indicate that the cost of cleaning up the land for this venue would be prohibitive given budget and time restrictions.

"We will continue to look at the Spitalbrook site but it is prudent to develop robust contingency plans at this stage.  We have a very challenging timetable and it is important to take swift action when presented with problems.  

"Venue designs continue to be developed so that a planning application can be submitted once the site discussions are completed. We are on track to complete the venue for test events in 2011."

The alternative site is also owned by LVRPA and is currently used intermittently as an overflow car park to the ‘Showground' site. It lies between Waltham Cross and Theobalds Grove stations so has good transport links.

The ODA are still on course to submit a planning application in Spring 2008. Construction is due to start in early summer 2009.  Even with some slippage on these dates, there is adequate time to have the venue ready for test events in 2011.

James Bulley, Director of Venues and Infrastructure at the London 2012 Organising Committee said:

"We must ensure that fully operational venues are delivered in time for testing prior to the Games.   We have therefore agreed with the ODA to look at an alternative site, particularly one that could be easily transferred, if the Spitalbrook site cannot be delivered within the timescales.  We will continue to work closely with the ODA, LVPRA, and all key stakeholders to ensure that a satisfactory conclusion is reached quickly."

Shaun Dawson, Chief Executive for Lee Valley Regional Park Authority said:

"We have been working closely with the ODA for some months on alternative options for the white water canoe course in light of the survey findings at Spitalbrook.  

"One of the advantages of the 10,000 acre Valley Regional Park is that we have another viable option to consider.  This site benefits from good transport links, being adjacent to the M25, close to three railway stations and geographically it is also closer to the Olympic Park.    

"We are now working with the ODA and partners to finalise the work on the Spitalbrook site while conducting further site investigation work on the alternative site.  

"What this demonstrates is great contingency planning by all concerned."