Up to 13,000 spectator car parking spaces, vital to fans wanting to watch the Tour de France stage one finale in Harrogate, could be revoked if extreme weather mars the Grand Depart.
The expansive fields at the 250-acre Great Yorkshire Showground in the town will be made available to 15,000 spectator cars during the July 5 and 6 stages, but organisers of the annual Great Yorkshire Show – scheduled to start on July 8 – have made clear that their event “comes first”.
The Yorkshire Agricultural Society (YAS) has already stated its event will be “business as usual” this year, while it has agreed to provide its land for car parking with Tour organisers on a weather-dependant basis.
But concerns have been voiced as to whether organisers have prepared alternative spaces in an area where around 300,000 people are expected to line the Tour routes.
North Yorkshire County Council has stated weather forecasts will be monitored ahead of the race, and if conditions will cause parking issues the authority may issue advice on transport options or alternative viewing spots.
Nigel Pulling, chief executive of the YAS, said: “Although we park a lot of cars and have a lot of space, the vast majority are on grass and therefore the weather is a factor and we were quite clear from the start that we are delighted the Tour’s coming, we are happy to help, but ultimately our event is the Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of the Great Yorkshire Show.”
Stressing that only “extreme” conditions would affect the site, he said given that most facilities in Harrogate can only cater to a few hundred cars, weather has “got to be a concern” for organisers as only around 2,000 of the YAS spaces are on weatherproof hardstanding. He added: “The Great Yorkshire Show comes first but we will do everything in our power to support the Tour.”
YAS has invested £600,000 in new roads and extended drainage at the showground after the washout of 2012, when the show had to be cancelled after the first day because of torrential rainfall.
More than 8,000 animals will be displayed this year at the Great Yorkshire Show from July 8 to 10 and over 135,000 visitors are expected. Royal visitors the Countess of Wessex and Princess Anne have already been confirmed.
“If it’s a particularly wet year then we will have to assess which fields are usable and which aren’t and that could result in a number of reductions of spaces for the Tour – the organisers accept that,” Mr Pulling said. “What would happen is there would have to be an announcement that parking was relatively restricted in the Harrogate area and almost discourage people to turn up but we are talking about worst case.
“Inevitably there would be quite a lot of queuing and the effects would be felt further afield away from Harrogate but these days we can get messages out very, very quickly.”
Harrogate is expected to be a major hub during the Grand Depart, being one of the few places to witness the Tour during both stages one and two. A special two-mile walkway connecting the showground and the town centre is set to be created for visitors.
A council spokesman said that if heavy rain and possible flooding is predicted, the authority will “alert people to the need to consider alternative transport options or alternative locations to view the race, due to the reduction in available parking.”