Saturday, 31 July 2021

Councils give no confidence vote to triathlon organisers

THE organisers of Challenge Henley have been given a vote of no confidence.

THE organisers of Challenge Henley have been given a vote of no confidence.

Representatives from Henley Town Council, Oxfordshire County Council and parish councils in the surrounding area attended a meeting on Wednesday last week to discuss this year’s triathlon.

A show of hands showed that the vast majority were in favour of the event moving.

Organisers Just Racing UK have said they have received offers to take the event elsewhere.

The company boycotted the meeting, which was called to discuss the third annual event on September 8 when roads were closed for 12 hours in order for the cycle race to take place.

Henley MP John Howell, who chaired the meeting, said: “The bottom line was while we encourage sporting events in the area there was a massive vote of no confidence in Just Racing.

“This year they had more marshals but they didn’t know the area. The road closures are the major problem but I don’t know how you overcome this.”

Mr Howell criticised Just Racing for failing to attend the meeting at Henley town hall.

He said: “Just Racing were absent and it was the second one they have boycotted deliberately.

“They think Challenge is a Henley event but it goes across other parishes and they totally ignore them.”

Rodney Rose, deputy leader of Oxfordshire County Council, claimed Trafeco, a company employed by Just Racing to manage traffic control, had “failed” in its duty.

Peter Ronald, public events co-ordinator for the county council, said written a complaint letter to Trafeco after it failed to deliver requested information until the last minute.

He said there was one minor accident involving a cyclist and a pedestrian during the event in which the rider was hurt.

David Hammond, chairman of Peppard parish council, spoke at the meeting on behalf of seven parishes, including Nuffield and Nettlebed, which met a couple of days beforehand to provide feedback.

He said: “We welcome sportsmen and women to Henley and we welcome the triathlon as a prestigious sports event and welcome the encouragement it gives to the take-up of sport, especially by young people. However, the arrangements for this event still fell far short of what is required.”

Cllr Hammond suggested key issues regarding major events needed to be addressed, regardless of whether Challenge Henley returned to the area.

He said: “There needs to be a proper debate by the county and district councils to identify the public benefits and costs from such events and to ensure that arrangements are made to mitigate costs which fall on vulnerable businesses and also to minimise inconvenience to local residents and the wider public.”

Watlington parish councillor Robert Barber said that Just Racing had proved it was “unable or unwilling to listen to the community”.

“The consensus was that we are not against the triathlon per se, we would maybe even welcome a triathlon run by someone else, but it has got to be run properly, with proper liaison with the community,” he said.

Liz Longley, who chairs Swyncombe Parish Council, said: “I think that the general hope is that it will move but we are waiting to hear what Just Racing has to say.

“Once again they couldn’t be bothered to come to the meeting so we couldn’t even work with them.

“It is so frustrating and underlines what we have all been fighting against and shows that they are not willing to work with us.” Henley Mayor Stefan Gawrysiak said: “This could be a really good event for Henley provided that Just Racing actually engages with all the councils.

“Personally, I would prefer a cycle route that was either rolling or you had three or four routes that were published in advance so that people would know that one would be hit once every four years.

“From the meeting it was clear that Peter Ronald was not happy about the traffic measures that had been put in place, including the marshalling of the event. There were no improvements this year.”

A spokesman for Just Racing UK declined to comment.

lA working group has been set up to put together a list of principles for the organisation of events like Challenge Henley.

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