ORGANISERS of Challenge Henley have been criticised for not making public a new cycle route which could minimise disruption.
Just Racing director Alan Rose said the route would retain access to Greys Court, Nuffield Place, Badgemore and Huntercombe golf clubs and Huntercombe prison.
However, he refused to discuss details until after the consultation on three proposed routes that all require 12-hour closures, causing businesses and tourist attractions to shut.
Next year’s triathlon is scheduled to take place on Sunday, September 8.
Bix and Assendon and Highmoor parish councils have both written to Oxfordshire County Council saying residents will be “significantly” affected by the closure of the A4130 and B480 in all three options so have refused to choose a “preferred” route.
Claire Dunk, parish clerk for Bix and Assendon, said: “We were originally given one route and then within a week there were two more options and now there is this fourth option which is being kept secret. I am amazed they can claim to have something better but they say they won’t let us know until January.”
Aafke Oldridge, chairman of Bix and Assendon Parish Council, said: “I can’t understand how an outside agent or company can come into this area and have so much clout to close off such a huge area of roads.
“I’m not against the athletes, I think they are amazing, I just don’t think the organisers have thought it through with regards to the residents. What do they give back to the area?”
She suggested the proposed 12 hours of road closures should be reduced to five or six hours to minimise disruption.
Parish councillors in Rotherfield Greys have refused to support any of the proposed routes as they do not want the triathlon held in the area.
Watlington Parish Council has objected to all three routes. It says Mr Rose broke a promise that the new cycle route would not impact on residents in their parish.
Chairman Ian Hill said: “All of them have a blocking effect — they cut us off from anything, some more than others.”
Councillor Barry Adby said: “There is a lot of unrest about it and even the people of Henley are not happy about it. Just Racing is a commercial organisation making money while causing local residents grief.”
Members of Sonning Common Parish Council have criticised the race organisers but have not yet submitted a formal response.
Vice-chairman John Stoves said: “It was chaos last year and I think I can predict it will be chaos next year.
“I think Just Racing is playing a cunning game. They are now looking at another route but are delaying announcing it so when it is unveiled they will say it is too late to call off the event.” He said he had heard lots of “horror stories” including one family who missed a christening due to Challenge and a group that had to stay in Henley overnight because they couldn’t get home.
Councillor Stoves added: “Just Racing will say it is only closing the road for one day but that probably affects 15,000 people in this area.”
Councillor Barrie Greenwood said: “It appears to me that the main motivation is financial — it is money- making event.
“The organisers claim, and I am sure there is some justification, that it benefits the people of Henley and brings lots of money to the town.
“The considerable impact is on the neighbouring villages and parishes, various sporting clubs and National Trust properties. It doesn’t appear that any local parishes benefit from having to be blocked off for a Sunday, one of the principal days for people to visit families.
“It does strike me that our opinions are not terribly important as far as the organisers are concerned.” Councillor Gail Noble said she had heard the event wasn’t well organised but she wouldn’t want it cancelled or moved out of Oxfordshire.
Stoke Row and Checkendon parish councils have said they have no strong views on either of the three routes but have asked to be kept informed.
A post published on the Challenge Henley website stated the organisers had been “blown away by the postitive feedback” they have received.
It added: “We have been bombarded with emails, phone calls and social media comments displaying how much the event means to you all.
“It is important to understand that although some councillors have negative opinions on our event it is Oxfordshire County Council which decides whether the event goes ahead and it has supported the event throughout and will continue to do so.”