THE organiser of Challenge Henley has been invited to meet town councillors to discuss next year’s event.
It follows consultation on three possible cycle race routes that have caused a backlash from neighbouring parish councils.
Alan Rose, director of event organiser Just Racing, says there is a fourth possible route but has refused to reveal details until the consultation finishes at the end of this month.
The town council has agreed to support next year’s event on September 8 subject to minimal disruption to residents.
Speaking at a meeting of the council’s town and community committee, Councillor Will Hamilton called on Mr Rose to present the extra route to the council.
He said: “Alan Rose is a walking PR disaster but he has a very good product in the triathlon. We need to ask him to come to the next committee meeting.” The triathlon event, which requires 12-hour road closures, has been met with opposition because the three proposed routes for the cycle race 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 the road to Huntercombe prison.
Last month, town councillors called for next year’s event to be postponed and accused organisers of making misleading claims about its economic benefit. Mr Rose responded with an open letter, published in the Standard, accusing councillors of being “extremely negative” and saying that “anything we present will be unacceptable to them”.
He criticised individual councillors, including Deputy Mayor Stefan Gawrysiak, who he called “rude, ill-informed, offensive and unprofessional”.
Cllr Gawrysiak told the committee: “We’re only doing our job as councillors. If the routes proposed cause unacceptable problems for the residents of Henley, it is absolutely right that we as councillors raise legitimate questions.
“There’s another route he’s talking to Oxfordshire County Council about and I think that, as the authority that’s going to be most affected, we have a right to know what the route is in order to make comment.”
Councillor Dieter Hinke called Mr Rose’s response “patronising, condescending and rude”.
He said: “He can’t take criticism well. I’m sure he didn’t reply in this form when John Howell asked him to move the route last year.
“Simply put, we need to see the route. My main criticism is that Challenge will cause more disruption to Henley than it did last year.”
Cllr Hamilton said the letter from Mr Rose was not helpful, adding: “It’s just a rant in many ways at the expense of councillors. We need to defuse the situation and ask him to come here to explain why it’s coming through the town.
“There are different dialogues going on with Mr Rose and we need to bring this together as a town council. We need a united approach otherwise the letters are going to go on and on.” Councillor Leila Meachin said the council needed to back off from personal correspondence.
In an email sent to his fellow councillors, Councillor David Silvester accused his colleagues of being “ill-informed and unprofessional”.
He said: “If you listen to every negative voice — and I’ve heard most of them over the last two years — there is no chance the thing will get off the ground.
“If you listened to every negative voice about the regatta that too would be cancelled. There are bound to be negative voices.
“More prevarication will risk losing for Henley a unique, modern-day racing spectacle as well as the considerable income to the town it undoubtedly brings.
“In my view, that would be a disaster far worse than a few householders being inconvenienced for a day.”
The committee voted to write to Just Racing, stating its support for the event subject to conditions and asking Mr Rose to attend a council meeting to discuss the fourth route.