UCI Road World Championships ‘effectively closed’ Harrogate almost a month, review finds

A long-delayed review into Harrogate's hosting of the 2019 UCI Road World Championships has concluded the cycling event "effectively closed down" the town centre for almost a month with an "unacceptable" impact on residents and businesses.

By Jacob Webster
Monday, 27th June 2022, 3:22 pm
Updated Monday, 27th June 2022, 3:29 pm
The nine-day cycling event saw hundreds of international cyclists compete in races across Yorkshire, with each finishing in Harrogate.
The nine-day cycling event saw hundreds of international cyclists compete in races across Yorkshire, with each finishing in Harrogate.

The review from Harrogate Borough Council’s overview and scrutiny commission also raised questions over the "fairness and transparency" of VIP tickets for councillors and council officers.

It marks another set of conclusions of the nine-day event which has already been the subject of an economic impact study and several surveys.

A common complaint during the championships was that town centre traders suffered a drop in earnings due to road closures, while residents said the event caused disruption to their daily lives.

The event will also be remembered for leaving parts of the Stray severely damaged after the parkland was used as a fan zone during wet weather.

Conservative councillor Nick Brown - who chaired the cross-party review - said in a draft report: "There was a common perception that the event effectively closed down the centre of Harrogate not just for the nine days of the UCI but for nearly a month including set up and dismantling.

"Looking to the future, there is a place for exciting, perhaps shorter, events that portray Harrogate and North Yorkshire in a good light, nationally and throughout the world."

The draft report aims to improve the planning of future events and gives 15 recommendations which will be signed off at a meeting of the overview and scrutiny commission next Monday.

The recommendations include better consultations with residents and businesses during the early stages of events planning, and also using road closure signs which are "positive" and do not "deter travel".

It has also been suggested that a "more impartial" process is needed for VIP tickets which, according to the draft report, were handed out to council officers as well political group leaders who then allocated the passes to party members.

The draft review also questioned whether "plus ones" were appropriate for VIPs when regular tickets were limited.

The championships were held in September 2019 when hundreds of international cyclists competed in races across Yorkshire, with each finishing in Harrogate.

It marked the first time in nearly 40 years that the event had come to the UK.

An economic impact study commissioned by the council concluded the event resulted in a £17.8 million boost to the local economy and was watched by a global television audience of 329 million.

It also said 84% of people who came to watch the championships were satisfied or very satisfied with it.

However, it did not take into account the complaints of businesses and residents.

The overview and scrutiny commission's own survey gathered the views of 689 respondents - 52% of which said the event was not beneficial to Harrogate.

And when asked if they would support another cycling event in the district, 48% said yes and 50% said no. The remaining 2% did not answer this question.

The event organisers were Yorkshire 2019 - a now-dissolved company which was set up by the government and later contributed £35,500 towards the Stray repair costs.

The draft review published this week said the damage to the parkland was not caused by bad weather, but the "actions of contractors and sub-contractors that did not comply with contractual requirements".

The Stray Defence Association said in a survey response that the event was a "disaster" and led to parts of the parkland being closed for 338 days.

As well as the £35,500 from the event organisers, a further £95,000 was spent on park upgrades by Harrogate Borough Council which had a total £606,000 cost of hosting the event.

The single biggest cost for the council was £200,000 for the fan zone on the Stray.

By Jacob Webster, Local Democracy Reporter