RESIDENTS say they face being “prisoners for the day” again after changes to the route of a major cycle race failed to satisfy opponents.
Organisers of the prestigious Etape Cymru race have finalised the route for the 85-mile cycle across Wrexham and Denbighshire, which will take place on September 14.
At a meeting of Wrexham Council’s scrutiny committee in March, councillors and residents expressed their dissatisfaction at a situation which led to road closures in Penycae and Rhos of up to 10 hours.
Councillors said people were effectively “landlocked” and trapped at home by the roadblocks.
In the face of the fierce complaints, alterations have been made to this year’s route, including Penycae only being involved once on the route this time around.
Organisers also said motorbike escorts would be available to take people on or off the route during road closure periods – but the number of escort journeys has to be “capped” and can only be offered to those “that have no choice but to move and who also cannot make any other arrangements”.
That failed to wash with community leaders, who have questioned whether organisers are thinking about the impact the race will have on people living in villages around Wrexham.
Road closures will begin as early as 5.40am in Bangor-on-Dee, and roads in the Rhos ward will be closed between 9.45am and 4.30pm on the day of the race.
Community councillor in Rhos, Paula Williams, who runs a farm near Legacy, said: “We will be cut off for six hours 40 minutes, according to the organisers. I’m appalled.
“South Wrexham and rural communities appear to have been well and truly pushed out of the way by Etape Cymru.
“We were made promises by the organisers and they have not been kept. When we met organisers they said it was ‘the nature of the beast’.
“But that’s simply not a good enough answer.
“Don’t get me wrong. I want this event to take place as it is good for Wrexham – but the effect the closures have on people in this area is unacceptable.”
Etape Cymru have said a number of motorbike escorts will be available to those people who require movement on the closed roads during the event. Last year’s event was sabotaged after a number of tacks were spread on roads, which took many of the escort bikes off the road.
It will be the fourth year the race has been held. It brings in an estimated £500,000 into the regioan’s economy.
Ponciau councillor Paul Pemberton said: “Last year it was horrendous. Closures were from 6am right through until 3pm or 4pm – if it was until 10am we’d be happy with that and make alternative arrangements but people became prisoners for the day.
“I will not stand for it, and don’t care if this event is good for Wrexham, it’s bad for the people of Rhos and Penycae.”
Penycae councillor John Phillips, whose phone was ringing ‘non-stop’ during last year’s race with resident complaints, said: “The new route will just go one way through Penycae, however this doesn't reflect the lengthy road closure of just under seven hours. This is still totally unacceptable
“I can assure you it is not good for Penycae. Why should other parts of the borough benefit from increased trade, when places like Penycae and Rhos are closed for the day, and residents virtually kept prisoners in there own homes.
“All I am asking for is race organisers to reduce the duration of road closure, even if the format of the race is changed to accommodate us.
“We can’t go on like this.”
Etape Cymru organiser Kirsty Wilde said: “We’re aiming to make improvements in 2014 to our motorbike escorts.
“This will mostly come about through more pre-event planning with the communities.
“We acknowledge that there are some people that have no choice but to move on the day and will not be able to make alternative arrangements to work around the closures or, for example, move their cars just off route the evening before and walk to them on the day. This could include farmers tending to animals in fields at set times, or home help carers.
“We will have a group of experienced motorbike marshals who are fully trained in how to drive in a closed road event environment who can act as pre-booked escorts to help to get them on or off the route safely.
“For the safety of everyone involved, the total number of escort journeys has to be capped.
“They can only be offered to those that have no choice but to move and who also cannot make any other arrangements.
“The route is broadly the same as in 2013 but further changes were made after John Phillips requested that consideration be given to an alternative route to reduce the impact of road closures in Penycae.
“The change to the route has been made. The route no longer goes through Penycae twice and goes up to the Panorama via Acrefair, not Penycae. This therefore means Penycae Church Street is just impacted on the way back rather than twice, and thus the impact of road closures in the Penycae area is reduced.”