TOWN councillors have agreed “in principle” to support next year’s Challenge Henley if disruption to residents is minimised.
The triathlon event, which requires 12-hour road closures, is scheduled to take place on Sunday, September 8.
Oxfordshire County County is carrying out a consultation on three proposed routes for the cycle race which would mean the closure of visitor attractions such as Greys Court, Nuffield Place and Stonor House as well as Badgemore and Huntercombe golf clubs and Huntercombe prison.
Just Racing, which organises the race, says it has a fourth route that would bring far less disruption but has refused to reveal details until the consultation is completed at the end of the month.
Last month, some town councillors suggested postponing the event but at a meeting of the full council last week, members voted to support it despite differences of opinion. Councillor David Silvester said: “We should resolve to continue with this event and have confidence that if we negotiate with Just Racing we will find a way to go.”
Councillor Sam Evans said: “The overriding opinion of everybody I have spoken to is ‘what on earth is going on?’
“It is one Sunday in a year and brings lots of people to the town, making use of the restaurants, pubs and hotels. It is something that is contributing to Henley’s standing.”
Town and county councillor David Nimmo Smith said residents in Bix, Assendon and Rotherfield Greys were “up in arms” but he didn’t want to see Challenge cancelled.
He said: “I support the principle of having it. I don’t want to see them go away and have a year off because they won’t come back and Henley will be worse off for it.”
Councillor Lorraine Hillier, who runs the Hot Gossip coffee house in Friday Street, said she wanted the event to take place. She said: “There are businesses that will benefit and some that won’t.
“There will be some residents who will be severely inconvenienced and some who will cheer it on. It is one day and we would all like to see it go ahead.”
Councillor Will Hamilton said Challenge was a “fantastic” event and suggested inviting Just Racing director Alan Rose to meet councillors to discuss the cycle route.
Deputy Mayor Stefan Gawrysiak said all three proposed routes would cut off three of the five main roads into Henley from 6am to 5pm, disrupting residents and visitors.
He said: “We may well support the principle of sport but we do have to take into account the views of residents too. There is no analysis of the economic impact of the businesses in Henley — it is a one-sided approach.
“There is a fourth route which doesn’t affect anybody — why on earth have they not published this route for us to discuss?” Councillor Joan Bland said that during this year’s event she received calls and letters from residents who couldn’t make hospital appointments or visit friends because of the road closures.
She added: “There was rubbish left in New Street. They need to have a waste management policy. Mr Rose has a lot to answer for.”
Councillor Martin Akehurst said: “It is a great event but my concern is all three routes involve blocking off the central part of the town. I believe it is only a matter of time before one of the emergency services gets stuck.”
Councillor Ian Reissmann said: “I strongly support the principle of the event but there are concerns that some residents inside and outside Henley are affected. It is our duty to protect the interests of those residents.”
He proposed that the council supported the event in principle but expressed its concerns about its effects and this was passed with 15 votes in favour and one abstention.