Town that let the Tour’s golden opportunity go riding by

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From: Andrew Jeffrey, York Road, Leeds

HOW strange it is that some parts of Yorkshire have chosen to turn their backs on the opportunity to benefit from the financial bonanza that the magnificent success of the Tour de France has brought.

On Sunday, with the streets of our county thronged with visitors to Le Grand Départ, I was astonished to find that Wetherby was, effectively, shut. It wasn’t short of tourists, but they were as mystified as I was.

With the exception of Morrisons supermarket and a couple of enterprising independent retailers, nothing was open. Easily 90 per cent of the shops were shut.

There were plenty of people about, plainly in Yorkshire for the Tour, since they wore yellow wristbands and carried merchandise from the race, but was anywhere open for them to spend their money? No, not really.

This would be odd on any sunny Sunday in summer, but it is especially strange when the opportunity is there to cash in on the vast influx of people who came to cheer on Le Grand Départ.

I know the debate over Sunday trading is a thorny one, and those business people who choose not to open are perfectly entitled to the day off.

Nevertheless, it does seem rather short-sighted in the circumstances. Over the years, I have read in The Yorkshire Post oft-expressed concerns about the commercial fortunes of Wetherby.

The loss of the brown tourist sign on the A1(M) pointing visitors towards the town was undoubtedly a blow to trade, but there seems little point in trying to attract tourists if there is nowhere open for them to browse once they arrive.

At the risk of stating the obvious, trade is not going to be buoyant if an opportunity as golden as the Tour is allowed to slip past.

I have no doubt that many of the tourists wandering around on Sunday did their research before arriving in Yorkshire and earmarked Wetherby as a charming place to visit, which it undoubtedly is.

How many of them choose to return after finding the town shut is open to question.

There was a very different picture in Harrogate, where everything was open, and the visitors were laden with shopping bags as well as their Tour merchandise, doubtless to the satisfaction of businesses which will have seen their takings boosted. I regret to say that in Wetherby on Sunday, I had the sinking feeling that the town had missed a trick.