Sunday, 01 August 2021

Challenge organiser reveals fifth route

A FIFTH route will be considered for the cycle section of this year’s Challenge Henley event.

A FIFTH route will be considered for the cycle section of this year’s Challenge Henley event.

The unseen route has been developed by event organisers Just Racing UK based on feedback from the fourth route, which was published in last week’s Standard.

Parish councils, businesses and Henley MP John Howell had criticised the decision to release the fourth route without consultation.

Just Racing UK director Alan Rose says the latest route incorporates “very minor changes” to the fourth route to “help to minimise disruption”.

He has promised more motorcycle escorts and better communication with churches and businesses on the route. Paid marshalls will also be used for the first time.

Road closures for the cycle race are likely to be in place between 6am and 6pm on Sunday, September 8, with road closures for the run section between 11am and midnight.

Peter Ronald, area traffic engineer for Oxfordshire Council, said the council had no option but to agree to the event as it could only be vetoed on safety grounds or if there was likely to be major traffic congestion.

He said: “At the end of the day the event is going to happen and we have got to work with it and work around it so that it causes the minimum of disruption. It’s a professional cycle race, so we have people going at high speed and the only way to have this event is on closed roads.

“Residents need to realise this is a major sporting event. Henley Town Council supported it and South Oxfordshire District Council supported it — all we have done is make it happen.”

Mr Ronald said many residents and parish councils had written to “object” to the event during the informal public consultation. They would all receive a reply from council chief executive Joanna Simons.

The new route will be submitted to the county council by the end of next week in order to start the legal process.

Residents, businesses and parish councils which lie on the new route will receive letters asking them for their comments and observations once consultation has started.

Mr Howell will chair a liaison group meeting with affected parishes next month to discuss the route.

He said: “The problem is access for people who live in Swyncombe, Maidensgrove and the area round there. I don’t know whether the new route has taken this into account. Alan Rose hasn’t been in contact with me.”

Meanwhile, Henley town councillor Joan Bland walked out of a meeting on Tuesday after saying she had been insulted by Mr Rose and refused a right of reply.

Mr Rose said he was unwilling to take questions from Cllr Bland during a question-and-answer session at the town council’s town and community committee meeting and Councillor Pam Phillips, who chairs the committee, would not allow her to speak.

Cllr Bland complained about her treatment, suggesting it was unacceptable, and Mr Rose responded: “Is it acceptable that a councillor doesn’t reply to emails? Is it acceptable that a councillor hangs up on you and you leave a message on the phone that they don’t reply to? Is that acceptable?”

Cllr Bland tried to defend herself but was stopped by Cllr Phillips, who said Mr Rose and Mr Ronald had been invited and therefore were guests.

Cllr Bland walked out of the meeting soon afterwards.

Speaking later, she said: “I was told not to speak and not to ask a question of Mr Rose when I am there as an elected member. I am there to represent the people that are affected in North ward and I was not allowed to speak on their behalf.

“It was wrong as I should have been able to answer. That man was insulting me and my right to reply was taken away. I thought it was pointless staying if I was not allowed to speak, if my democratic rights have been taken away.”

She said she had not replied to Mr Rose previously because she had felt he had been disrespectful to her.

Cllr Bland, who runs Asquiths teddy bear shop in New Street, said: “I didn’t reply to him because he was rude and he also left messages on my phone which were rude.

“He said he was going to visit me in my shop with his friends. I consulted the town clerk about it and said I would phone the police if he did visit as I was concerned.

“It has been thrown at me that I am thinking of my own business when I certainly am not. I am thinking of the people and the community. I am a competitive rower and am not against sports but I am against liberties being taken away and bad attitude.”

Councillor Phillips, who chaired the meeting, said she regretted the incident.

She said: “Frankly, it wasn’t going to go anywhere — they were just going to shout at each other.

“I am only sorry that Mr Rose said what he did. Up until that point it was going as well as I could have expected but what I did, I feel, was to stop it in its tracks because the one thing that I always feel you should have is respect — respect for councillors and respect for visitors and that is clearly what was lacking in their previous dialogue.

“It is really unfortunate because there are a lot of people who support the triathlon and, as we have been told on many, many occasions we do not have the power to stop it.”

Mr Rose said: “During the last three years we have attended many meetings in and around Henley, including full council, various committees and parish meetings, alongside meetings with businesses and churches.

“During this time, I have often declined to comment on various stories published in the Standard as I feel it is a lot more productive to respond directly to any issues that may be raised.

“From our perspective, nothing has changed — our intention is, and always has been, to deliver a world-class international triathlon event, minimise disruption and work with local communities and businesses to maximise the economic impact that the event undoubtedly brings.

“The issue of Cllr Bland is very simple — she asked some questions, made some statements to which I replied with a list of my own questions (published in the Standard).

“I had no response to three emails, so I called her to discuss the questions. She hung up, so I left her a telephone message asking her to call me to discuss the questions (which she didn’t), so I suggested that I could visit her in Henley at her shop when we were next down. We received no reply, so didn’t visit her.

“I would still welcome the opportunity to meet Cllr Bland to discuss the points she raised.”

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