Tuesday, 03 August 2021

Call for special order to control events like Challenge

COUNCILLORS should have more say on whether events like Challenge Henley can go ahead.

COUNCILLORS should have more say on whether events like Challenge Henley can go ahead.

That’s the demand made by Councillor Tony Crabbe, who represents Benson on Oxfordshire County Council.

He planned to put forward a motion at Tuesday’s meeting of the council which would have given it the power to grant a special events order to the organisers of the triathlon, Just Racing UK.

The 42.2km cycle route for the event on Sunday, September 8, has been criticised by parish councillors and residents for the disruption caused by the 12-hour road closures required.

Cllr Crabbe was unable to present his motion as the meeting overran but says he hopes another councillor will take up the case after next month’s council elections, when he will stand down.

He said: “The local community isn’t having enough of a say in where the route goes and for how long the roads are closed. It really ought to have a bigger say.

“If we can get the appropriate ministers to agree that the county council can have a lot more say then the organisers will have to talk more to us and listen to what local people have to say.”

Cllr Crabbe said his view of the event has changed since the first Challenge event in 2011.

He said: “When it was first put forward I thought it had a lot of potential for the area but I didn’t realise just what impact it would have.

“People have said to me they are not happy with being cut off for so long. I am not against the event but let’s not have all the benefit in Henley.”

The motion was supported at the meeting by David Hammond, chairman of Peppard Parish Council, and Julia Wells, a parish councillor for Swyncombe.

Councillor Hammond said: “I would argue that the council should act less as a cheerleader for a commercial event and take its duty to ‘minimise disruption’ more seriously. It cannot be right that a commercial organisation can plan an event which disrupts the lives of so many and yet the council says it has no choice but to shut down roads to accommodate it.”

Councillor Wells said the road closures would affect more than 790 households along the route.

She said: “Sundays are special days when we like to get out or to have friends and family visit us.

“We might have a beautiful day yet we may not drive or cycle on our own lanes, or go to our local churches or village cricket matches, because they have had to be cancelled.”

Lord Camoys, who also attended the meeting, said Cllr Crabbe’s motion should have been higher up the council agenda in order to ensure that it would be heard.

He also called for better communication between Just Racing, the county council and residents.

Just Racing director Alan Rose did not attend a meeting of the liason group chaired by John Howell in February and afterwards the Henley MP accused him of having “effectively left all trust broken”. Lord Camoys said: “The current situation is very undemocratic as the county council made its decision without really consulting those that are going to be affected.

“They [Just Racing] have got to grow up and come and talk rather than just saying, ‘you are wrong, you are against me’.

“If Just Racing won’t come to the discussion then I don’t believe they should be able to close the roads and the event shouldn’t take place.

“We have all got to be reasonable and they are being unreasonable and very rude too.”

Barbara Lewis, who chairs Nettlebed parish council, criticised Peter Ronald, area traffic engineer for the county council, and deputy council leader Rodney Rose for calling objectors a “ginger group”.

She said: “We are the elected representatives of our communities and we are trying as hard as we can to fight for them. I have personally had people contacting me with their concerns, both business and personal.”

No one at Just Racing was available to comment.

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