‘Serious error’ not to have Harrogate representation on UCI cycling event board, councillors say

Not having a Harrogate representative on the board of the company which organised the 2019 UCI Road World Championships was a "serious error".

By Jacob Webster
Wednesday, 6th July 2022, 9:50 am
Updated Wednesday, 6th July 2022, 9:53 am
Photo: The fan zone on the Stray before the parkland was badly damaged during the UCI cycling event.
Photo: The fan zone on the Stray before the parkland was badly damaged during the UCI cycling event.

That is according to councillors who carried out a review which concluded the international cycling event "effectively closed down" Harrogate town centre for a month with disruptions for many residents and businesses.

The event also led to more than £120,000 being spent on repairs to the Stray after the parkland was badly damaged when it was used as a fan zone.

Conservative councillor Nick Brown - who chaired the review by Harrogate Borough Council's overview and scrutiny commission - said it was "unacceptable" that no local representatives were on the board of Yorkshire 2019 which was set up by the government to run the event.

The 15-member board included the chief executive of North Yorkshire County Council and representatives from Welcome to Yorkshire, British Cycling and UK Sport.

Speaking at a meeting on Monday, councillor Brown said: "Richard Flinton from North Yorkshire County Council was on that board, but there was no one from Harrogate Borough Council - I think that was a serious error.

"Board membership would have ensured that residents, community groups and business organisations were fully represented, but that didn't take place.

"Some of the problems may have also come to light earlier than after the event."

The review highlights how Harrogate residents and businesses faced disruptions throughout September 2019 when the UCI event came to the UK for the first time in nearly 40 years.

Races were held over nine days at locations across Yorkshire, with each finishing in Harrogate.

The review gives several recommendations for future events, including better representation at board level and better consultation with residents and businesses during the early stages of planning.

It also suggested using road closure signs which are "positive" and do not "deter travel" after some Harrogate streets were shut for several weeks.

Councillor Brown said he hoped lessons would be learnt from the review and that Harrogate would be open to welcoming more major events.

He said: "We don't want to stop these sorts of events in the future and the lessons we learn from the past will help us organise them.

"All of the things we have done in the past relating to cycling I think represents Harrogate in a good light in the main, but residents and businesses have got to be thought more of."

Councillor Pat Marsh, leader of the opposition Liberal Democrat group, also said while lessons should be learnt, there were positives to be taken from the UCI event which put Harrogate on the "international stage".

She said: "We didn't do the communications right and also certainly the road closures... but the major one for me was having no representation on the board.

"We can correct that in the future now it has happened.

"As long as we learn from this, we can look forward to putting on more events."

The review was signed off by members of the overview and scrutiny commission at Monday's meeting and will now be sent to the council's cabinet, as well as North Yorkshire County Council.

A previous study commissioned by the council concluded the UCI event resulted in a £17.8 million boost to the local economy and was watched by an estimated worldwide television audience of 329 million people.

By Jacob Webster, Local Democracy Reporter