Lessons must be learnt from review into 'disastrous' UCI cycling event, says Harrogate businesses

Harrogate's business community has insisted lessons must be learnt from a new review into the town's controversial hosting of the 2019 UCI Road World Championships.

By Jacob Webster
Tuesday, 28th June 2022, 5:54 pm
The fan zone on Harrogate's Stray during the 2019 UCI Road World Championships.
The fan zone on Harrogate's Stray during the 2019 UCI Road World Championships.

Independent Harrogate - which is made up of over 80 small businesses - described the cycling event as a "disaster" for the majority of town centre retailers.

It comes after a long-delayed review was this week published by Harrogate Borough Council's overview and scrutiny commission which concluded the event "effectively closed down" the town centre for almost a month.

Although races were held over nine days, businesses and residents faced disruptions for much longer as fan zones and road closures were introduced.

A spokesman for Independent Harrogate said the event "went on far too long" and that shoppers "simply stayed away" from the town centre because of the disruptions.

"A large number of our members reported decreased sales," the spokesman said.

"One who had very little footfall during the event saw their revenue for the month of September down by 60% on the previous year. And they were not alone.

“Just as we were recovering from the UCI, along came COVID and a further two years of disruption. And now we are facing further upheaval in the guise of the Harrogate Station Gateway project, which will again have a major impact on the town centre - and not in a positive way."

The overview and scrutiny commission's review was due to be published last year, but there have been several delays.

Now published, it aims to assist with the planning of major events across North Yorkshire by giving several recommendations, including better communication with residents and more "positive" road closure signs which do not "deter travel".

A previous study commissioned by the council concluded the UCI event resulted in a £17.8 million boost to the local economy.

However, it did not take into account local complaints and the reported drop in earnings from some businesses.

David Simister, chief executive of Harrogate District Chamber of Commerce, said he was glad these issues have now been recognised in the new review which will be signed off by councillors next week.

He said: "This is a very detailed report and one that incorporates a wide range of views from a number of organisations.

"I’m pleased the experiences of businesses have been acknowledged and incorporated into the recommendations.

"And when Harrogate feels confident to host other major events, and I hope it does, these recommendations are not simply ignored, but used to ensure the town as a whole benefits, and that businesses, particularly those in the retail sector, are not left counting the cost.

"However, before committing to anything, I think it’s important to weigh up the pros and the cons, and also liaise with previous host towns to measure the impact it had on them."

By Jacob Webster, Local Democracy Reporter