The UK greyhound racing industry has taken another blow after a Manchester Planning and Highways committee approved proposals to close Belle Vue Greyhound Stadium.
The track, was the first purpose-built greyhound track in the UK, and was the last remaining greyhound stadium in the North West.
Having been built in 1926, the infrastructure is synonymous with the Belle Vue area in East Manchester, and its closure is expected to result in approximately 200 jobs being lost.
The development of the site will be overseen by Countryside Properties, and will see 247 new houses built, 14% of which will be allocated under an affordable housing scheme.
The proposals were submitted after after a consultation report highlighted the track’s decline in revenues and footfall in recent years.
Belle Vue’s closure puts the number of remaining tracks in the UK at 20. It comes as the track was acquired earlier this year by Arena Racing Company (ARC) from the Greyhound Racing Association (GRA).
Speaking with Simon Banks, CEO of Star Recruitment, he emphasised that the closure would be a huge loss to the sport.
He said: “The loss of Belle Vue is huge blow to greyhound racing in the UK as it is the only remaining track in the North West. There is a massive potential audience for the sport in Manchester and its environs and we know that when a track closes very few of the regular attendees go to other tracks, but rather they drift away from the sport.
“There is a false narrative that track closures are linked to declining interest. Attendances are actually holding up and I note that Romford’s Boxing Day meeting is sold out. Most recent track closures have been for residential development, not because of lack of interest. Greyhound racing is an affordable leisure option that appeals to young people in particular.
“There are around 200 people who work directly or indirectly at Belle Vue and its closure will be keenly felt. There are 17 trainers attached to the track and some of those would find travel to another track impractical. There will also be an impact on the businesses in the Manchester area that supply the track.
“I understand that there is a nationwide housing crisis and that there is demand for housing but there is a danger that people have somewhere to live, but nowhere to enjoy their leisure time. I’m sure there are many other suitable sites for development in the Greater Manchester area and to lose a much used and much loved facility will detract from the Manchester leisure offer as a whole.”