Wednesday, 28 July 2021

Challenge director breaks pledge over value of event

THE organiser of Challenge Henley is refusing to pay for another economic impact assessment of the event.

THE organiser of Challenge Henley is refusing to pay for another economic impact assessment of the event.

Alan Rose, director of Just Racing UK, broke a pledge when he said no further survey would be carried out unless it was externally funded.

Last year, the company was criticised by Henley councillors for an economic impact survey it produced in conjunction with South Oxfordshire District Council which estimated Henley and the surrounding area received more than £1million in additional revenue as a result of the triathlon event.

Next year’s Challenge — the third — is to take place on Sunday, September 8 — but it has been dogged by complaints by businesses and parish councils about the disruption caused by 12-hour road closures needed for the cycle stage. Mr Rose’s comments were made in response to an email sent by Henley MP John Howell on behalf of residents following a meeting of a liaison committee.

Mr Rose did not attend the meeting two weeks ago.

Mr Howell wrote: “It is perhaps an understatement to say that the poor organisation of your event in the past two years has left my constituents frustrated but your non-appearance has effectively left all trust broken.

“The quick assessment after the event last year was insufficient to allay concerns and I would be grateful if you could let me have sight of the methodology intended to be used this year and details of who will carry this out on your behalf. Clearly it needs to be done by an independent body for the sake of credibility and also include the costs to the local community as well as the benefits.”

Mr Rose described Mr Howell’s email as “insulting and inaccurate”.

He said: “We are still happy to produce a robust economic impact assessment but we are not happy to fund it.

“Unless external funding for this is found, we will not be carrying out any further assessments.”

Mr Howell replied: “Your decision now not to proceed with it will be deeply disappointing and will effectively leave a key plank of the case for the event without any substance. I urge you to reconsider your view.”

He also suggested Mr Rose had not done enough to consult with the parishes affected. “If you had attended the last meeting you would have found parishes very willing to work with you on this year’s route and I urge you to return to the meeting in the future,” he wrote.

The previous economic impact assessment was described by Henley councillor and shopkeeper Joan Bland as “rubbish” while deputy mayor Stefan Gawrysiak called it “absolute garbage”.

Mr Rose responded in an open letter in the Standard, saying Just Racing had been asked to produce the survey five or six weeks before the 2012 event, which meant it was impossible to produce a detailed assessment but “it was agreed that this would be undertaken for 2013”.

Mr Howell told the Standard thatan economic impact study was “absolutely essential”.

He said: “Most other organisations that hold events in the Oxfordshire district create such a study.

“I think they [Just Racing] ought to get their finger out and pay for it. I don’t think there is scope for other organisations to pay for it and I don’t see why taxpayers’ money should be used to pay for a study when Just Racing are the ones that chose to bring this event to the area. They have to prove its worth.

“I have had some feedback from councillors who were already unhappy that Just Racing was not listening to local opinions.”

Mr Howell also asked whether Just Racing UK was pursuing the idea of holding the event elsewhere and was told by Mr Rose that he was “not willing to share our future plans at this stage”.

Mr Rose also suggested Mr Howell’s criticism demonstrated he had the “air of certain individuals who will only be satisfied if the event does not take place”.

Just Racing UK declined to comment.

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