TWO National Trust properties could be forced to close on the day of next year’s Challenge Henley event if a proposed new route for the cycle race is agreed.
Visitors would be unable to reach Greys Court and Nuffield Place because the A4130 and B481 would be closed for the third annual event on September 8.
The trust, which would expect about 2,000 people to visit the two properties on that Sunday, only learned about the new route plan from the Standard following a meeting between event organisers Just Racing UK and parish councillors last week.
Jane Greenhaf, property operations manager of Greys Court, said: “We have not been notified of these proposed road closures and we are very concerned, not only about the financial impact that they will have on the properties but also the disappointment and upset that they will cause our visitors.
“It is a great shame that we were not consulted and we will be making an official objection as soon as the application by Just Racing has been registered with Oxfordshire County Council.
“We know that several routes have been considered and we trust another one can be proposed that will have a less negative impact on local businesses.”
The trust has already published its 2013 opening arrangements in a handbook which will be distributed to more than four million members.
The event organisers agreed to alter the cycle route to avoid the Stonor Valley following the death of cyclist Denisa Perinova in a road accident in July.
The 180km cycle race is the second stage of the ultra- triathlon and during this year’s event roads were closed for up to 12 hours, although there was less disruption reported than during the inaugural event in 2011.
Some of the parish council representatives who attended last week’s meeting are concerned about the suggested route. David Hammond, chairman of Peppard Parish Council, said: “I think residents will be concerned that it’s coming through the middle of the village for such an extended period and it will have significant impact on businesses, particularly pubs, as well as other activities that people want to do on a Sunday.
“My understanding is that the road giving access to Greys Court would be closed and I can’t see how they would manage to open it, which I think would be shame.”
Claire Dunk, parish clerk for Nuffield and Highmoor, said: “It’s a case of if you live in the area you will pretty much be aware of the event but if you are from outside then you will not and that will obviously cause an awful lot of pressure.”
She said Huntercombe Prison was likely to have at least one change of shift between 6am and 5.30pm when the A4130 would be closed and questioned whether staff would be able to get to and from work.
Mrs Dunk is also parish clerk for Bix and Assendon, where she said the old route has caused “inconvenience” two years running.
She said: “I think what gets a lot of people’s backs up is that an outside organisation has managed to come into the area, get the road closed for a whole day and put everyone at inconvenience and yet this organisation is working for profit.”
Watlington parish councillor Robert Barber said he is relieved the new route excluded Christmas Common, which had been disrupted previously.
But he added: “I hope for the benefit of those who will be affected next year that the organisation is improved.
“Wherever it goes it’s going to be problematic. If I was the National Trust I would not be very happy.”
But Norman Gibson, vice-chairman of Nettlebed Parish Council, said he was looking forward to “a quiet Sunday” if the proposed route was agreed.
“I think it will be nice,” he said. “It is only the people in the high street who will be impacted — the village won’t be that badly affected.”
The organisation of this year’s event was also discussed at the meeting and Just Racing UK representatives suggested calls requesting motorcycle escorts had been made in an attempt to scupper the event.
It was also revealed that more than half of the 70 marshalls did not turn up on the day.
An economic impact assessment made by Just Racing UK and South Oxfordshire District Council listing the positive benefits of the race was distributed.
This claimed the extra income the event creates for Henley and the surrounding area is in excess of £1 million.
Henley MP John Howell, who called the meeting, was unwilling to discuss the proposed route with the Standard.
He said: “The meeting reviewed the way that Just Racing UK had conducted the event this year and then proposed a new route for the parish councillors to take back and examine among themselves.
“The route was put forward as a suggested route only with comments to go back to the county council.”
A spokeswoman for Just Racing UK said: “The route has not been decided. We are discussing it in liaison with the committee.”
The 3.8km swim stage along the Henley Royal Regatta race course and the 42.2km run through Henley and along the Thames towpath will not be changed.
The suggested cycle route starts as previously, with entrants riding from Henley Business School down Marlow Road and onto the Fair Mile.
Cyclists would then follow a new route along the A4130 towards Nettlebed, turning left onto the B481 and passing through Highmoor, before turning left through Shepherds Green and Greys Green to reach central Henley.
Competitors would then turn back the way they came before crossing down to RotherfieldPeppard and Gallowstree Common.
Cyclists would turn back towards Nettlebed through RotherfieldPeppard and Highmoor before cycling along the A1430 through Nuffield. After reaching the Crowmarsh Gifford junction they would turn back towards Henley, turning around near Northfield End to start their second loop.