Organisers ‘confident’ of Velo South 2019

Velo South engagement meeting 26-07-18. CSM presentation by excutive chairman Jon Ridgeon.
Velo South engagement meeting 26-07-18. CSM presentation by excutive chairman Jon Ridgeon.

The executive chairman of CSM Active, which organised the cancelled Velo South on Sunday, has said he is ‘confident’ of the county council agreeing to a 2019 event.

The 100-mile, closed road cycling event was dramatically cancelled on Thursday after a weather warning from the Met Office but it had already become controversial.

READ MORE: Live blog and reaction to Velo South cancellation

Speaking today, CSM’s Jon Ridgeon said the cancellation was frustrating, but the main benefits of the event with regards to tourism and inspiring cycling were still valid for a 2019 event.

He said: “Today onwards the focus has been shifted to 2019, the discussion with West Sussex County Council will start hopefully very, very soon and we’re hoping it will be back in 2019, it’s clearly not my decision but I’m confident.

“The reason I say we’re confident is that all the positives of why West Sussex County Council signed up in the first place are still there.”

READ MORE: ‘Reflection’ promised by West Sussex County Council over Velo South process

Opposition to from the Stop Velo South campaign, which had planned to protest on Sunday, was only a small group, Mr Ridgeon said, and he felt sure the best way to persuade residents was simply to hold the event.

“What is so frustrating is had we done the event, I’m convinced it would have been a huge success and the boat would have shifted,” he said.

Concerns regarding Velo South have been centred around a lack of consultation with residents and widespread road closures to facilitate the event.

Mr Ridgeon said the company would begin informing people earlier and could always do more to notify those affected, acknowledging ‘issues’ with one of the leaflet drops.

But he said consultation regarding an event was the responsibility of the county council and not the remit of an event organiser such as CSM Active.

He also defended the company as having been responsive to concerns regarding road closures.

“We contacted just under 2,000 businesses and groups, 200 carer organisations for example and all these cases where there had to be access, in the vast, vast majority of cases we put in solutions so they could get where they needed to go on the route, we had 1,000 stewards.

“The sort of language that’s been used, being ‘trapped in their homes’, that’s just wrong.”

Mr Ridgeon said the reality was the route could be modified with the county council to consider areas and communities that had access issues: “A review of the route makes total sense, we will always minimise road closures as much as possible.”

He said full rolling road closures were not an option due to the sheer scale of the event, as 15,000 riders spread out into a peleton several hours long over the course of the route.

But he stressed the character of Velo South had to be large scale, 100 miles, closed roads, and 15,000 participants or more.

“There are a number of small events staged in Sussex but we’re not doing that,” he said.

“We’re starting a nationally – but in time it could be an internationally – renowned cycling event in West Sussex.”

READ MORE: Stop Velo South campaigners say the ‘fight has not stopped’ for ‘different’ 2019 event