Council leader hails UCI as ‘amazing advert for Harrogate’

Council leader Richard Cooper believes the world-wide UCI coverage will boost Harrogate.
Council leader Richard Cooper believes the world-wide UCI coverage will boost Harrogate.

Despite the controversy and complaints, Harrogate Borough Council is hailing last week’s UCI cycling championships a huge positive for the town.

Shocking new aerial pictures show extent of damage to the Stray in Harrogate following UCI cycling championships

The highs of hosting one of the world’s most important sporting events for nine days may have been accompanied by some lows but the council leader says the town has been a winner overall.

Coun Richard Cooper said: “It was impossible not to be swept away by the atmosphere and excitement of the world championships.

“I know there are mixed views on whether the event was a success for the district and we will be getting some professional input into that.

“The initial surveys on local media websites - including The Harrogate Advertiser - suggest that a large majority think the event was a success.”

With a budget of £600,000, in addition to funding from external organisations, the council invested heavily in the success of Harrogate’s role as the first British hosts of the UCI Road World Championships for 37 years.

The council leader said he understood some of the complaints. But, even if it was judged in marketing terms alone, welcoming the world to Harrogate for the international event had been well worth it.

He said: “I don’t need an expert to tell me that appearing on maybe 200 million televisions in 60 different countries for nine days is an amazing advert for Harrogate, the district and Yorkshire.

“This will have a long-term sustained beneficial effect on tourism in exactly the same way the Tour de France did.”

Answering critics of the cost to the council of playing its role in delivering the event, Coun Cooper said some of the claims were wildly off the mark.

“All in all the Council spent around £600,000 in addition to funding from external organisations,” he said. “We also gave some of our facilities in kind and they will have a notional monetary value.

“Similarly we will have done more litter clearing and the council’s brilliant staff worked long hours to deliver services around the event.

“The event was underwritten to the tune of many millions by the Government and, contrary to some of the speculation on social media no payments were made to the Council for hosting the event.”

Man who oversaw Harrogate's UCI road closures says event was a triumph

Coun Cooper acknowledged complaints over the effects of road closures on businesses and residents.

But he said the disruption, in his experience, was not as bad as sometimes made out.

He said: “Suggestions on Twitter and other social media platforms that Harrogate would be unreachable were very wide of the mark particularly with the great public transport opportunities.
“If people planned their journeys I don’t believe the disruption was generally unreasonable but some very defined areas such as West Park and the Harrogate circuit faced greater challenges.

“It is a shame if anyone believed what they had read and stayed away because of that.”

As for the potential economic boost to Harrogate, the council announced last month that it had appointed accounting giants Ernst and Young to calculate the exact figures.

Coun Cooper added: “We will be getting some information on the economic impact from professionals in due course. Some businesses will have done better than others.

Yorkshire2019 led a number of briefings on how to get the best from the event but there wasn’t a great deal of engagement with those. But the nine-day long advert showing our fantastic district to the world will benefit everyone.”

As to the future, Coun Cooper revealed further events in Harrogate were possible but there was no intention of applying for further extensions to the Stray Act.

He said the town needed a “breather” before deciding on the direction ahead.

“The borough council’s main role following the event is to put the Stray back to rights,” he said. “We were desperately unlucky with the weather but we have seen events and occurrences before that have not found us wanting in making the Stray good. I think every event should be judged on its merits but we have committed not to apply for a temporary relaxation of the Stray Act again so that would limit the possibilities.

“I think we should relax, take a moment to look at the economic impact reports and have the discussion about the future in due course. My personal view is that we should take a breather before thinking about any more blockbuster events.”

Incensed Harrogate business owners demand compensation after reporting a significant loss of earnings during UCI cycling championships

The Ernst & Young report is expected by December 2019.