Angry parish representatives confronted county council officers last night over a lack of consultation on road closures for cycling event Velo South.
The 100-mile route will cut off the main road through several villages prompting concerns as to a loss of access for emergency services, residents, businesses, churchgoers and farmers caring for livestock.
While county council director of transport Matt Davey assured the Petworth meeting all road closures would be scrutinised by safety advisors, parishoners expressed frustration issues were being discussed only two months ahead of the event.
A Southwater resident said the town would be ‘cut in two’ by the road closures, while Sarah Barrow from Ifold said the village had no other road in or out for eight hours.
She said: “There is a considerable amount of concern about access and none of us have been given any routes out to solve our access issues.
“One individual, a policewoman, has to get to work, she’s been afforded an escort, that’s one person out of hundreds.”
County council officers said they were looking at access solutions for places including Ifold that had to be signed off by safety advisors and urged those with specific issues such as farmers and businesses to get in touch with event organisers CSM.
But the volleys of questions turned to exasperation at a lack of communication from CSM or any proactive planning from the county council to mitigate the impact of the two to nine hour closures.
A representative from Slinfold Golf and Country Club said she was shocked the club, which has 3000 members, had yet to receive any direct communication.
“We plan our events one to two years in advance,” she said. “To be told this was happening two to three weeks ago by somebody in the village wasn’t acceptable.”
A representative from Cowdray Park said the estate had only been informed in the last two weeks and parish councillors also said their areas had not received event leaflets.
The meeting also heard concerns about trade as a wedding venue in South Harting had had a booking cancelled because guests would not be able to leave the next day and concerns the economic benefit of the event would be centered around the starting point in Goodwood.
Executive chairman of CSM Jon Rigdeon said the whole region would benefit as spectators lined the route.
He said the company had had 700 emails and voicemails to its email@example.com enquiries inbox since February and the company promised another leaflet drop in August and road warning signs two weeks ahead of the event.
Other issues raised amid the ruckus included farmers who had to feed animals by driving down a closed road, a clash with the horse trials at the South of England Show, and church attendance during Harvest Festival.
Rev Colin Datchler said many of his Stopham congregation came from further away. Officers suggested service times could be rearranged and offered to work with farmers affected.
Funtington Parish Council chairman Geoffrey Keech asked who pay for the ‘considerable’ cost of policing the event and was told the full cost of all additional resources for the event such as police and Red Cross response support would be met by CSM.
The meeting also heard that although cyclists could not join the event, cyclists and pedestrians would be able to use the roads under the temporary traffic regulation order, provided they exercised caution as on an open road.
County council officers have advised anyone with access concerns to contact CSM via firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling their hotline on 01243 935 359.
Mr Davey clarified there was no formal political approval or public consultation needed on whether to grant the road closure order but the council would consider representations made during the 28-day public notification period.
He added: “I think if I said the county council has just spent half a million pounds in consultation for this event, you would all be up in arms.”
Nevertheless, he agreed to publish the minutes of the safety advisory group of emergency service members and experts being consulted on the closures.
The meeting closed with feelings still running high over an ‘undemocratic’ process.
One attendee said: “I don’t think anyone here is against cycling or cyclists, it’s the way you’ve arranged this event.
“If you’d come to us first and asked what kind of event we’d have been happy with, you would have found a much more favourable reception.”