Friday, 23 July 2021

Fifth cycle route for triathlon revealed

THE fifth and final cycle route for this year’s Challenge Henley triathlon has been announced.

THE fifth and final cycle route for this year’s Challenge Henley triathlon has been announced.

Organisers Just Racing UK claim it will minimise disruption but businesses and organisations say they will be affected even if access is provided.

The new route, which incorporates minor changes to the fourth route which was published in the Standard last month, now allows access to National Trust properties Nuffield House and Greys Court, Badgemore Park and Huntercombe golf clubs, Greys Green golf course, Henley leisure centre, Huntercombe prison and Huntercombe nursing home.

A key change to the route is a turn in the road near Round Shaw Farm in Ipsden, instead of in Stoke Row, and cyclists will pass through Huntercombe End to reach the B481.

A shuttle service in Nettlebed will provide access to the Sue Ryder hospice and businesses in the village during the event on Sunday, September 8.

Road closures are expected to be in place from 6am to 6pm.

Alan Rose, Just Racing UK director, said the event promisesd to be “a fantastic spectacle and huge success”.

He said: “We are very excited to deliver both this new bike route to the athletes along with a third year of Challenge Henley, where record numbers of entries are expected.”

Jon Connell, general manager at Badgemore Park Golf Club, said he was pleased there would be limited access to the club but there would still be a “significant” impact on the club’s annual men’s invitation event on that day.

He said: “Will our members from Rotherfield Greys and Rotherfield Peppard have to go out to Reading or Sonning to get back onto the Reading Road to travel up to the club?”

Ann Hood, who owns Greys Green Golf Course, said: “Some access is better than none but if some people have a reprieve others are going to be badly affected. Someone is always going to suffer, which is annoying.”

David Hammond, chairman of Rotherfield Peppard Parish Council, said: “The effect on Rotherfield Peppard will be somewhat greater than it has been in the last two years as it will close off the route to Henley unless you go through Sonning Common.

“The real concern is for businesses that will have to close for the day — pubs and restaurants that aren’t necessarily on the route but will be affected.

“I think we will have to suck it and see but I would certainly like to see an economic assessment made.”

Jane Greenhaf, general manager for Greys Court and Nuffield Place, said: “The new route means the village of Rotherfield Greys will effectively be cut off and only accessible from the north-west.

“This will inevitably cause a huge amount of anxiety and consternation for staff, volunteers and potential visitors who may very likely not be aware of the road closures.

“While we can publicise locally and on our website, there is no effective way of communicating this event to the four million-plus National Trust members who rely on our handbook for information. I would be very interested to know what Just Racing will be doing to support us.”

Josh Roper, assistant manager at Henley leisure centre, was happy with the new route.

He said: “As long as people can get to us we will not have many complaints. It’s fine because it’s only one day.”

Katie Cuthbert, regional fund-raising manager for Sue Ryder, will with Just Racing UK on Thursday.

She said they would “go through the route and arrangements to ensure the hospice staff, visitors and patients aren’t affected on the day”. A report by Mr Rose states that Just Racing UK took into consideration concerns raised about the three possible routes first suggested and the suggestions made during consultation.

He said a one-lap course would be not be economical nor athlete-friendly and using an aerodrome would not be an appropriate alternative as the Chiltern hills provides an undulating and challenging course, which was the reason athletes took part.

Mr Rose did not attend a liasion committee meeting last Friday chaired by Henley MP John Howell, while Rodney Rose, deputy leader of Oxfordshire County Council, cancelled his appearance due to an “unavoidable appointment”.

Peter Ronald, area traffic engineer for the county council, did attend the meeting at the town hall, together with representatives from about 15 parishes.

Mr Howell said: “This event is a matter between the parish councils, the county council and Just Racing.

“I became involved in good faith to try to provide a forum for all three parties to hammer out arguments so it is very disappointing that one party decided not to attend.

“If Just Racing was expecting an argument or a punch-up at the meeting it was the complete opposite- it was very calm.”

Watlington parish councillor Robert Barber said: “The event is going to have a huge effect, much of it negative, on the area and he [Mr Rose] is not even prepared to engage with the community. That’s unacceptable.

“He should be doing everything within his power to create goodwill with the people this event affects and he seems to doing everything possible to create hostility.

“The way Just Racing and, to some extent, Oxfordshire Council Council are behaving is actually turning some people who would like to work with organising and liaising into thinking that it is an event they want stopped.”

Councillor Barbara Lewis, chairman of Nettlebed Parish Council, said: “It is very naughty that Just Racing didn’t have the courtesy to attend the meeting and everybody was pretty disgusted by that.

“Essentially, the trust has been broken and that goes for everybody involved- the town council, the MP and the rural councils.

“All of the businesses in Nettlebed are on the high street so all of them will be affected.”

Issues discussed at the meeting included marshalling, motorcycle escorts and whether it was necessary to close roads for up to 12 hours.

Claire Dunk, parish clerk for Nuffield, Highmoor and Bix & Assendon, said her councils did not object to the event but wanted more co-operation from Just Racing UK.

“It’s one day in the year and people can make alternative arrangements,” she said. “It is the third year now so it’s kind of an established event so what can we do? The closures affect a minority of people but you can understand that they are very angry that they can’t go about their days as normal.”

Mr Howell said: “There were a number of parishes that wanted the event stopped and there were a number which were keen to work with the event. There wasn’t a universal view of stopping the event but there was a universal view that I should write to Just Racing addressing a number of points.”

He emailed Just Racing UK on Sunday asking for more information about the organisation of the event.

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