TWO more parish councils have criticised the organisers of Challenge Henley.
Peppard and Sonning Common councils have written to Oxfordshire County Council, saying that their parishioners would be disrupted by all three possible cycle routes for next year’s event, which is scheduled to take place on Sunday, September 8.
All three require 12-hour road closures, causing businesses and tourist attractions to shut. Several other parish councils have already objected to the cycle routes during a consultation exercise that ends on Monday.
Event organisers Just Racing have said they also have a fourth possible route which wouldn’t cause disruption but have refused to reveal details during the consultation period.
Just Racing proposes that the cyclists would race along the B481, cross down to Rotherfield Peppard and Gallowstree Common and then return to Henley.
Peppard parish clerk Linda Collison said the council welcomed the triathlon “in principle” because of the potential boost to Henley and because it promoted exercise.
However, she continued: “It has concerns over the impact on the local community, particularly over the length of time that roads are closed for the cycle part of the event.
“All three proposed routes would cause inconvenience and disruption to residents of Rotherfield Peppard. Access to Henley, while theoretically possible for some via Sonning Common and Harpsden, would be severely limited as would routes to the north. Others have already commented on the problems of accessing such locations as Greys Court.”
Research by the council found that 142 households, or 21 per cent, would be cut off by one route, meaning residents would have to rely on motorcycle escorts provided by the organisers.
The households include Church Lane (52 houses), Gallowstree Road (26), Springwood Avenue (16) and Grange Avenue (13).
Businesses and other premises that would be isolated include Manor Farm business park, Greenshoots, the Ruchetta restaurant, the Greyhound pub, Peppard Bowls Club and All Saints’ Church. Part of the Vitality 2 bus route from Reading to Peppard would also be affected.
Ms Collison said: “Households in the northern part of the parish around Kingwood Common would only be able to get access using Wyfold Lane and Checkendon. Those in the southern part of the parish would be cut off from the northern part. In total, 538 households in the parish would be affected.”
She said the council welcomed efforts to maintain access to Greys Court and Nuffield Place, which are owned by the National Trust, but would be “very unhappy” if the fourth route went through Peppard village.
She added: “The parish council hopes that common sense will prevail and that some means will be found to reduce the impact of the triathlon on rural communities in South Oxfordshire either by rerouting the course or by reducing the time period of the road closures.”
Philip Collings, Sonning Common’s parish clerk, said: “We have the same serious concerns as those already expressed by all the parishes affected by the proposed routes about the deleterious effects on their residents and businesses should any of these routes be allowed to be closed. The lack of co-operation and communication shown by Just Racing only increases our concern that the suggestion there may be a fourth route in the offing is just a smokescreen intended to fob us off until it is too late.
“There is no question of there being any economic benefit to this parish — quite the reverse. To add insult to injury, there is no suggestion of any recompense for financial losses from either the organisers or from Henley Town Council.”
Challenge Henley says it has been “blown away” by “positive feedback” about the event. In a statement, it said: “Although some councillors have negative opinions, 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.”