MORE than £1million is needed to transform a rundown athletics track.

The public track behind Waterside Leisure Centre, in Somnes Avenue, Canvey, has been neglected for years and runners are training elsewhere.

Now it has been revealed £1.1million is needed to bring it up to Sport England standards with lighting, a 110m straight track on both sides, a grass infield and jumps.

Tom Skipp, Castle Point councillor for the environment and leisure, said: “In all honesty I don’t see how this council can justify this expenditure when similar facilities are available 30 minutes away in neighbouring boroughs.”

After a £2,500 project for remedial works, Bill Sharp, the council’s deputy leader, said the track was in “a perfectly acceptable condition to be used”, but a decision was needed about charging athletes.

Mr Sharp said: “I thought originally there was a nominal sum to be paid by users but when it was in a poor condition nobody charged for it.

“It would be logical not to charge and say it is available to all to enjoy sport.” Dave Blackwell, leader of Canvey Independent Party, said: “For years, running clubs have been using the track without paying and the council is supposed to make them pay. It wasn’t a free track.

“When it was in a good condition all the schools used it for their sports day and would hire it out.”

Now, residents use the track for free, but runners say money needs to be invested.

Ian Pike, head coach at Benfleet Running Club, said: “We are not allowed to use it as it is not suitable. People still go over there though, and just don’t pay. There’s grass growing through the tracks. It is useable but I don’t think they havemaintained it for years. It’s just been left.

“It’s a shame. When it was opened the problems began as it is actually too short by about a foot, it isn’t quite 400m. Had they made it 400m it would have had more people using it in the early days and maybe it wouldn’t be in the state it is now.”