Tuesday, 27 July 2021

Council denies lawyers’ claim race is unlawful

Road closures for the last two Challenge Henley triathlons were “unlawful” according to two lawyers who have written to Oxfordshire



ROAD closures for the first two Challenge Henley triathlons were unlawful, claim two lawyers.

Arthur Weir, from Maidensgrove, and Robert Seward, from Cookley Green, have been told that the 12-hour closures for the cycle section of the third annual event, due to take place on September 8, can be authorised with police consent even though no such permission was granted for the first two events.

They wrote to Oxfordshire County Council, saying the event should be suspended while consultation is carried out and the necessary authorisation is obtained from the police.

Mr Seward said: “[Organisers] Just Racing UK are advertising the roads as going to be closed and are asking people to enter the race which seems to me to be wrong because they haven’t got any clearance.

“No doubt they have been told by the county council that the roads can be closed but they don’t have the authority.”

The men say they have investigated the event’s legal basis because they were fed up with the inconvenience it causes. In their letter to Joanna Simons, the county council’s chief executive, they claimed that Challenge fails to comply with three conditions of the Cycle Racing on Highways Act 1960.

These state that the number of competitors cannot exceed 80, the route cannot pass the same point on the highway twice within 10 miles or less and stretches of the route on a public highway that are limited to 40mph or less should not exceed one-and-a-half miles and no part of the route must lie within three miles, measured along the route, of any part of any other such length.

The council replied that it can lawfully authorise the road closures under the Act with police consent.

Nick Graham deputy head of law and culture, said: “My instructions are that that police consent is being sought. In the circumstances, I do not see there is any need for those organising the race to suspend their preparations.”

He said he couldn’t comment on the arrangements for the previous years.

Mr Seward wants Just Racing UK to find an alternative cycle route for future events.He said: “The organisers have tried to bulldoze their way through a pretty big area so that people can’t get in and out of their homes.

“They say competitors cannot go round an aerodrome but what they have done is create a route which includes all the best places for cycling with little thought for others.

“Quite understandably, people are going to want to practise the route but Huntercombe End is very narrow and if you get cyclists two-abreast trying to go 30mph along there it’s going to be very dangerous.

“The route also includes Watlington Hill. I’d have thought the cyclists would build up a hell of a speed going down there, although until the day of the race it’s just a normal route and open to traffic.”

Mr Weir said: “The race has closed our community. There are a number of people whose houses are on the route who have been put under house arrest.

“They aren’t allowed out unless they walk, which is horrendously dangerous when there are bicycles around, or escorted.”

Just Racing UK declined to comment.

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