THE organisers of a major cycle race have been urged to think again about road closures to prevent residents becoming “prisoners in their own homes”.
The managers behind the 88-mile Etape Cymru race defended the record of the race at a meeting yesterday, citing the major economic benefits to the Wrexham area and the large number of people the event brings to the region.
But councillors from affected wards, including Penycae and Ruabon, raised concerns that road closures of up to seven hours – set for Sunday, September 14 – were “unacceptable” and “unfair” to their constituents.
Wrexham Council’s homes, environment and scrutiny committee backed recommendations to approve the route for the 2014 race, but added a number of recommendations put forward by Penycae councillor John Phillips.
These included reducing the time of road closures to the absolute minimum, varying the route so it would only pass through Penycae once, working with affected wards and improving the motorcycle escort service for the worst affected villages.
The race, which starts and ends in Bangor-on-Dee, takes riders along closed roads in Wrexham and Denbighshire.
Last year’s event saw a 57 per cent increase in entrants from 2012 and the council was made aware of difficulties experienced by residents and businesses on the route, due to road closures of up to 10 hours.
This year’s race uses alternative routes in and around Wrexham, limiting the amount of time roads need to be closed.
In addition, local people will be consulted on the proposed route for the race, which last year brought in an estimated £400,000 of economic benefit into the region.
As many as 2,007 entrants took part in 2013, with about 80 per cent travelling from outside the region. The race was marred by tacks scattered on part of the course which caused punctures to race bikes and safety motorcycles.
Cllr Phillips said: “The closures are not going far enough. Last year it was terrible for my constituents and six to seven hour closures for this year is still unacceptable.
“We need to have a look at the race format if it doesn’t change.”
Cllr Joan Lowe said: “I recognise the benefits economically but how would you like it if you were a prisoner in your own home from 6am through to 4.30pm on a Sunday?
“There have been many hiccups with this race and they should have been ironed out by now.”
Kirsty Wilde, of race organisers Human Race, said: “We have worked hard to reduce the road closures and I appreciate it is not perfect but closures for a maximum of five hours are simply not feasible.
“We will advertise the route on radio, newspapers, internet and through community councils. It is imperative we have dialogue with local people affected by the closures and we would ask anyone who needs to discuss an escort service to get in touch.
“We know farming is a 365-day a year business and we recognise the need to speak with those affected. We can certainly look into providing an improved escort provision on the day.”
The issue of escort motorbikes not turning up during last year’s event was raised at the meeting by Rhos community councillor Paula Williams.
Council leader Neil Rogers, said: “We should be welcoming this event to Wrexham, which brings vast economic benefits and attracts thousands of people from outside the area into our region, some from as far as Europe.
“The decision of some to scatter tacks on the roads in 2013 was dangerous and could have led to a fatality but we ought to remind people that this is a successful event and we should encourage it.”