NEGLECTED for years, Canvey’s running track first opened to the public in the early Nineties and was hired out by schools and running clubs for sports events.

But slowly over the years it has fallen by the wayside, and now it’s in a sorry state, with tufts of grass poking through the track.

Although it is still used, £1million is needed to get it back up to scratch – an amount Castle Point Council cannot justify spending.

Ian Pike, head coach at Benfleet Running Club, believes the reason the track got in such a state was simply down to its design.

He said: “It’s a real shame.

When it was originally opened the problems began because it is actually too short by about a foot – it isn’t quite 400m.

“Had they made it a 400m track, it would have had more people using it in the early days. Then maybe it wouldn’t be in the state it is now.”

Castle Point Council recently carried out £2,500 of work to patch it up and deputy leader Bill Sharp argues the track is in a “perfectly acceptable condition”.

Yet others disagree.

Canvey running sensation Jess Judd, 19, no longer uses her home track, blaming the worn-out surface for giving her blisters.

Instead, she commutes to Basildon and Chelmsford to train there.

For years, athletes have also moaned the long jump pit is unusable, while the track surface is in a bad state and the line markings have faded.

However, you still see keen runners there training most days.

The track is not recognised by the England Athletics Association and Castle Point Council estimates it would need to spend £1.1million to replace it.

That would pay for a sixlane track with lighting, a 110m straight on both sides, a grass infield, artificial throwing areas and other vital equipment.

But with the council unable to meet the cost, many running enthusiasts have been forced to travel outside the borough to use Basildon Sporting Village and Garon Park in Southend. Waterside Leisure Centre was reopened in 2013 following a £5.4million revamp, but a track was not included in the plans.

Campaigns have been launched over the past 10 years to sort out the unloved Waterside track, although some diehard runners believe it still has a use.

Former decathlete Dean Macey said the track is still a decent community facility – but is angry it has not been maintained.

The Commonwealth gold medallist added: “The track has been a big part of my life.

“It’s not been looked after over the years. It’s been so mistreated and it wouldn’t need £1m spent on it if it had been maintained over the past few years.

“As long as the grass is cut, it’s a lovely place to be, and gives the kids something to do.

“But it’s unrealistic to have to spend £1million on it when the damage has already been done – there is no comeback.

“It’s gone past the point of a small investment and it is never going to be used for competition.”