MP asks Velo South organisers to renew efforts to address local concerns
Arundel & South Downs MP Nick Herbert has today written to the Executive Chairman of Velo South bike ride organisers CSM Active (Tuesday 18 September).
Mr Herbert has asked CSM to make renewed efforts to address local concerns ahead of Sunday’s ‘significant’ bike ride event. In his letter, he raises concerns about the impact on local businesses who will be affected by closed roads along the 100-mile route.
Nick’s letter in full:
Dear Mr Ridgeon
I am extremely concerned that many of my constituents remain dissatisfied with the planning for the Velo South ride on Sunday (23 September). I have previously taken this matter up with West Sussex County Council, but the reports which I am still receiving, just days before the event takes place, make it necessary for me to seek your direct assurance about the steps being taken to respond to local concerns.
15,000 cyclists and the associated disruption of closed roads makes Velo South a significant event for West Sussex, and one which clearly requires proper access management plans. I am particularly concerned to learn about the potential impact on local businesses, many of which have contacted me highlighting their anticipated loss of customers and the difficulties of staff getting into work on the day. These businesses rely on weekend trade and stand to incur financial losses because of the ride, yet there seems to be no recourse for them.
The 'closed loop' design of the ride route will lock residents and business in/out of their normal activities for long periods, with closures of roads for as much as 10 hours in the latter stage of the route, with a significant knock-on effect on surrounding roads. Main roads such as the A29, which is a key North/South route in the County, will be closed in sections for up to 6 hours.
I would be grateful for your urgent assurance that CSM Active will ensure that everyone who has made a direct request for essential access is being responded to personally, and that renewed efforts will be made to address local concerns ahead of Sunday’s event.
I am copying this letter to Councillor Louise Goldsmith, Leader of West Sussex County Council. I have approved it personally but am signing electronically.
*** UPDATE ***
In his response to Nick Herbert’s letter, Mr Jon Ridgeon, Executive Chairman of CSM Active, wrote (19 September);
Dear Mr Herbert MP,
Thank you for your letter of yesterday, expressing your concerns regarding the Velo South cycling event.
You are right to identify that an event of the scale of Velo South requires detailed access management plans. Velo South is one of the UK’s largest closed road cycling events and as such has required a very significant planning focus spanning many months. I can confirm that working closely with West Sussex County Council and all of the emergency services, CSM Active has invested considerable resource over the last few months to create bespoke access plans for all those individuals and businesses who have access requirements on the day of the event. The outcome of this work is that we have be able to find solutions to the vast majority of access enquiries and challenges of which we have been informed. Furthermore, we have over 1,000 staff, stewards and volunteers stationed on the route this Sunday to ensure that the event runs smoothly and any un-notified or unforeseen access issues that might arise on the day can be quickly resolved.
To ensure that Velo South is both safe and enjoyable for all those involved (cyclists and spectators), we recognise that there are lengthy road closures in place for event day. We have however maintained four access points across the route for the entire duration of the event and at other points intermittent access will be facilitated. We will continue to work hard to solve any access challenge that emerges right up to and during the event day this Sunday. You should be further assured that the independent, multi-agency Safety Advisory Group with jurisdiction over the event has signed of all event planning at every stage of the process.
In terms of businesses, I accept that regrettably a small number of business on the route will be negatively impacted but for many more the thousands of new visitors that the event attracts to the County provides an additional income source. To maximise this opportunity, we have many businesses along the route enthusiastically getting involved on the day and celebrating with the local community. Chichester University will deliver an independent economic impact study immediately post the event and we are confident it will demonstrate that overall the event will make a very positive contribution to the economics of the County.
Whilst an event of the scale of Velo South will inevitably create some level of inconvenience, I know you will be keen to understand the many significant positive impacts that the event will bring to West Sussex:
The positive economic impact that 15,000 riders and their supporters will bring to the county, the majority of whom will spend the full weekend in the area.
The hundreds of thousands of pounds our riders are expected to raise for charitable causes.
The inspirational legacy that major events such as Velo South create in encouraging people to be more active and embrace cycling more as an alternative means of transport.
I hope this email addresses your concerns. You will witness a hugely positive event this Sunday, where many thousands of people will enjoy the inspiring spectacle of an incredible demonstration of human endeavour. If it would be helpful to find out more, I am happy to meet with you at any time in order to understand your concerns in more detail.
Jon Ridgeon | Executive Chairman | Active
CSM Sport & Entertainment
1. Photograph: Nick Herbert in Pulborough, on the A29, next to a Velo South advance warning road closure sign.
2. To check local road closures see www.velosouth.com/the-route/road-closures/
3. To read Nick’s article ‘Velo South event’ for the West Sussex County Times (22 August) see https://www.nickherbert.com/articles/2018/8/22/velo-south-event.