Incensed Harrogate business owners have demanded immediate action and compensation after reporting a significant loss of earnings - as much as 98 percent in one case - as a result of the town hosting the UCI Road World Championships.
At a damning meeting held tonight, which was organised by the Harrogate District Chamber of Commerce and Harrogate’s Business Improvement District team, more than 100 representatives of the business community gathered to share their views on the direct impact that the global cycling event has had on their livelihoods.
There were cheers and even a chorus of ‘hear hears’ at Hotel du Vin when the owner of a shop on Commercial Street stressed that a clear message needs to be drummed out that businesses in Harrogate “do not want any more cycling events.”
She said: “There are some positives, there are people who enjoyed it, and I do think we have to acknowledge that for balance, but I do feel that what we are as businesses is collateral damage - no one gives a monkey’s.
“There have been far more people who have lost than have won from this.”
Another furious business owner criticised the argument advanced by supporters of the event that the long-term benefits of global TV exposure and promotional opportunities for the town will outweigh any disruption caused by the deluge of road closures and loss of earnings.
He said: “It’s all very well saying that the promotional opportunities and publicity for the town will make it all worthwhile and bring in tourism, but if there are loads of empty shops, because we have all gone under as a result of the UCI, then there will be nothing for visitors to come here for.”
Another shop owner said the severely muddy and damaged condition of the Stray, which hosted the Fan Zone for the full nine days of the event, looks so bad that they have drawn comparisons with the battlefields of the Somme.
He said: “It’s been a complete disaster - it’s not just about the loss of earnings, but also about loss of future earnings. The appearance of the Stray is so bad, it reminds me of the Somme. What sort of impression does it create for visitors?”
A number of attendees responded to criticism that has emerged from supporters of the event that local people haven’t embraced the event enough, and have contributed to the loss of earnings for struggling shops and businesses by not turning out to support them.
One business owner said: “The local people we rely on for business have felt isolated and excluded, they’ve felt that the road closures are too complicated, and haven’t been able to work out how to get into town.”
Another said that the elderly residents of Cold Bath Road “have been held hostage” and not been able to access services due to the disruption caused.
There were even heated calls from one business representative for every person in the room to submit a county court summons requesting compensation to whoever shoulders the most responsibility for the decision to bring the championships to Harrogate.
The president of the Harrogate District Chamber of Commerce, Steve Scarre, who chaired the meeting, said all questions and feedback will be noted and taken directly to Harrogate Borough Council and the organisations responsible.
The distraught owner of a therapy business, said: “We lost 98 per cent of our income, and the money we have lost has had a massive impact on our therapists.
“We are not a retailer, we are not in the hospitality trade. Any action we take as businesses has to include everybody, not just ratepayers, everyone.”
A representative from a Starbeck charity that supports adults with learning disabilities said they lost £3,000 as a result of the event.
She said: “It’s not just the financial impact, but also the impact on the individual of not being able to access support. If you are someone who has autism and likes routine, this can have a big impact.”
Another business owner said: “Harrogate is being used as a toy town backdrop for these sports events, whereas we are actually a living, breathing town.”
Another attendee said: “They care more about the visitors than the people who have to live here, that’s what upsets me.”