Anger at 'ludicrous' road closures for West Sussex cycling event

Richard Relton, from Velo South organisers CSM, gave a presentation to residents at the North Chichester County Local Committee on Tuesday June 19.
Richard Relton, from Velo South organisers CSM, gave a presentation to residents at the North Chichester County Local Committee on Tuesday June 19.

A very heated meeting on Tuesday night saw Sussex residents take representatives of Velo South to task over road closures for the cycling event.

Event organisers CSM gave a presentation at the North Chichester County Local Committee about the loop route stretching from Goodwood to Partridge Green, acknowledging that there would be a 'degree of inconvenience' for residents living in or within the closed roads.

But the residents and councillors at the public meeting in Elsted Village Hall were angry they had not been given a say in the road arrangements which they said would isolate several villages.

It comes after villagers in Plaistow and Ifold expressed similar fears the closures would leave them trapped in their own homes.

One member of the public said leaflets communicating the closures should have been given out by the end of May but were now being presented as a ‘fait accompli’.

He said: “Compton where I live, there’s one road that services it, the B2146. You’re closing that off for nine hours, it’s absolutely luidcrous.”

Also concerned was a soon to be father-of-two, who said his family’s safety and his business in Petersfield relied on him having access onto the B2146 as the only route out of his home.

He said his now two-year-old daugther had had to be rushed to hospital shortly after she was born and in the rural area, it was a midwife who drove her there instead of an ambulance.

He said: “I might have an emergency at work or I might have a daughter to get to resuss like two years ago.”

CSM representatives reiterated procedures for emergency services and the importance of safety as a priority but did not respond to a request for loss of earnings that day.

It was agreed that the resident should leave his contact details with CSM.

Richard Relton from CSM apologised to residents for any areas that had missed out on the first leaflet drop, which had been distributed through a third party.

He said: "Obviously we won't be able to convince every single resident but we can ensure that we are doing a large amount and will continue to do a large amount to make sure that everyone would will be affected by the road closures is aware."

But his assurances that the meeting was not a ‘box-ticking exercise’ for feedback was met with cynicism from attendees, who expressed anger that the road closures were ‘undemocratic’ and even asked what the penalties would be for protest action on the day.

County councillor David Bradford, one of the committee panel, said he was ‘horrified’ at the event and the decision to allow it had been made by officers ‘behind councillor’s backs’.

He said he had heard from South East Coast Ambulance Service public governor Matt Alsbury-Morris, who had 'grave concerns' about the safety of the event.

Director of Highways and Transport at West Sussex County Council, Matt Davey, told the meeting that SECAmb and other emergency services had raised no concerns and he was ‘minded to sign off’ the road closures for the county.

He added: “I would say that the overall support of the event has come from the county council cabinet board.”

The meeting also heard that cyclists would not be able to join the event for part of the 100-mile route, to the disappointment of cycling advocate county councillor Kate O’Kelly, and residents accused CSM of making a multi-million pound profit with the event.

Mr Relton responded that Velo South would actually make a loss in its first year and that if anyone could show the calculations for a £2million profit he would cancel the event.

He said there was nothing he could say to convince the room the event was a good idea but he would try to engage with residents questions.

Meeting chairman, county councillor Viral Parikh closed the discussion after one hour, advising residents to write to CSM with their concerns.

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