This is how Harrogate's emergency services will cope with closures and disruption during UCI cycling championships

With the deluge of road closures planned for Harrogate during the UCI Road World Championships, we take a look at the actions that our district's emergency services are taking to cope with the disruption and maintain a high standard of service.

Monday, 16th September 2019, 11:40 am
Emergency services from across the Harrogate district are gearing up to cope with the road closures and disruption during the UCI Road World Championships.
Emergency services from across the Harrogate district are gearing up to cope with the road closures and disruption during the UCI Road World Championships.

North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service

Firefighters from across the Harrogate district are primed and ready to respond to emergencies during the UCI Road World Championships, as North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service confirms that there are clear contingency plans in place to cope with road closures and any disruption during the nine-day event.

The plans focus on reducing response times by having on-call retained staff available at fire stations. Harrogate and Craven group manager James Manning said: “The service has plans in place to deal with emergencies that occur over the period of the UCI Road World Cycling Championships.

"This includes having on-call retained staff available at fire stations whilst the races pass through towns, which will reduce the time it takes for crews to attend an incident.

“Normally these staff would respond to the fire station from their place of work or home, when alerted by their pager. We’ll also be moving fire engines to make sure that they are able to respond. If there is an emergency over the race days, we would ask people to call 999 as normal.

“If people are travelling to areas they don’t know very well to watch the races, we would suggest downloading the what3words app which helps to pinpoint their locations.”

Harrogate Hospital and health services across the disrict

Extra staffing has been laid on by Harrogate and District NHS Foundation Trust to cope with the huge influx of visitors during the UCI Road World Championships.

A higher number of doctors and nurses will be on shift at Harrogate District Hospital, including at the emergency department, to meet the demand for services.

The trust’s UCI plans have been coordinated by their dedicated emergency planning team - Fran Bowden, who is part of the group and is also the trust’s clinical operations manager, said the message for patients is “business as usual,” but anybody who already has outpatient appointments booked should ensure that they allow plenty of extra time to travel through town and attend.

Fran said: “We are running as normal, but obviously we are expecting a few challenges to deal with during the event. There will be extra pressures, but we have been planning this for 12 months and we feel ready.”

Fran also stressed the importance of remembering the NHS’s 111 number in non-emergencies, to ensure that emergency department resources are concentrated on patients who need the most immediate help.

The opening hours for Ripon Minor Injury Unit have also been extended for the duration of the championships, with the facility now open from 8am to 8pm.

North Yorkshire Police

Police are to erect large gates to block streets and introduce new airspace restrictions in Harrogate to ensure the safety of spectators during the forthcoming UCI Road World Championships.

Inspector Jeff McKeown of North Yorkshire Police, who has been involved in the event planning throughout, said the scale of the event meant they had to be ready for anything - including the threat of possible terrorism attacks.

He said: “Due to our ongoing involvement in the Tour de Yorkshire we were aware of the bid for the UCI Cycle Championships from a very early stage. We have been working very closely with Yorkshire 2019 - the event organisers - and a wide range of partners from the outset.

“The championships take place in public spaces and the police have core responsibilities in relation to crime and disorder, public safety and contingency planning. It is an unfortunate fact of modern life that we must also consider the potential for terrorism related issues.”

Although North Yorkshire Police are not in charge of roads, they have been closely involved with preparations for the arrival of the world’s greatest cyclists for nine days and they expected hundreds of thousands of spectators.

Inspector McKeown confirmed that in the week leading up to the start of the event a number of gates and other measures would be installed on roads affected by the race in Harrogate.

He said: “The new gates will be at locations that would have been subject of road closures anyway. But more robust measures are being brought in to create an area where vehicles are prevented from entering – meaning crowds are protected and pedestrians can move about more safely.

“Terrorism is, of course, a consideration as vehicles have been used in attacks in a number of places in the UK and elsewhere. There are also wider public safety aspects as given the high crowd densities then any moving vehicles in the area around the finish and Fan Zone could lead to injury.

“As part of our approach of working in partnerships, we have brought in experts from the National Vehicle Threat Mitigation Unit, which is based in the Metropolitan Police in London. This has enabled us to access specialist equipment from the National Barrier Asset that can withstand a deliberate attempt to ram them with a vehicle.”

The UCI events will actually span four police force areas, impacting upon North Yorkshire Police, West Yorkshire Police, South Yorkshire Police and Humberside Police.

But, because the vast majority of the route miles in the the UCI Championships takes place within North Yorkshire, North Yorkshire Police have taken the role as lead police force for the event.

Their primary aim is to ensure everybody attending the races and other events connected to the championships has a great time and stays safe.

But, in this day and age, it will come as no surprise to anybody that not only will firearms officers and extra CCTV will be part of the mix but so will an ‘Airspace Restriction.’

Insp McKeown said: “An Airspace Restriction has been implemented for Harrogate for public safety and security reasons. This means that an aircraft cannot be flown unless a specific permission has been granted. This applies to aircraft such as helicopters, and also to drones.

“Breaches will be investigated and referred to the Civil Aviation Authority who will consider prosecution.” North Yorkshire Police have also made provisions should any protests take place at the UCI championships.

Insp McKeown said: “We have seen protests of varying sizes at many of our large scale cycle races, although these have not generally been directed towards the race itself - the event merely provides a high profile platform to highlight a cause. We have always worked with protesters to facilitate lawful protest.

“We do, however, also have the ability to respond if a protest is intent on disrupting the race and spoiling the enjoyment of the event.”

On a positive note, the police are bringing in a team of motorcyclists from the Central Escort Group used to cycling events to ensure that roads used in the races can be closed for a much shorter period of time.

GP surgeries

One of the biggest concerns among the elderly residents of Harrogate is how they are going to get around town during the UCI event - especially when they have medical appointments with their local GP.

Road closures and increased traffic have resulted in many fearing they will not be able to get to their crucial consultations.

Coun Don Mackenzie, North Yorkshire County Council’s executive member for access, said that organisers had tried to take doctors’ appointments into consideration while putting together the planning for the event.

He said: “We have been working closely with NHS England and local NHS partners to keep them fully up to date with what is happening with road closures.

“They have the relevant road closure information and are passing this information on to patients and staff as needed.

“They are working closely with a range of health providers and agencies to ensure that relevant health and care services can be delivered as needed.”

The Park Parade Surgery at the Mowbray Square Medical Centre has urged its patients to plan ahead and make sure they have enough medication to last them the week, just in case travel becomes an issue.

A statement on their website reads: “There will be extensive road closures during this time. The surgery will be open as usual but appointment times and availability may differ according to the road closures. Please prepare for increased travel times and consider using your local Pharmacy or the 111 service for advice if appropriate.

“Please also ensure you have enough of your regular medication well in advance of the championships.”

Many other surgeries across the town have issued similar advice.