New British Cycling report into UCI Road World Championships 2019 found races had a 'major disruptive impact' on Harrogate

A new report into Harrogate’s controversial hosting of the UCI Road World Championships has concluded the event had a “major disruptive impact” on the community but also inspired people to take up cycling.

The damaged Stray the winter after the UCI races
The damaged Stray the winter after the UCI races

The study - which was commissioned jointly by British Cycling, Sport England and UK Sport - looked at the pros and cons of the event held in September 2019 when Harrogate became the centre of world cycling for nine days of racing.

While races started in several towns and cities across Yorkshire, each finished in Harrogate where many residents and businesses complained of disruptions due to prolonged road closures and diversions.

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The event will also be remembered for leaving West Park Stray severely damaged after the parkland was used as a spectator area during heavy rainfall, with repairs works and upgrades later costing £130,000.

The new study gathered 385 post-event responses and found 45 per cent of those who took part were inspired to take up cycling or cycle more, while 57 per cent also said they felt prouder of Yorkshire and the UK.

But it was also acknowledged that several respondents were critical of the “inconvenience and disruption” caused in Harrogate, particularly when compared with other host locations such as Doncaster and Leeds.

The report said: “The event was seen to have had a major disruptive impact on the community in Harrogate, which is illustrated starkly by Harrogate Council’s decision to refrain temporarily from hosting major events of this scale.

“Another sticking point in Harrogate was the damage caused to a section of the Stray - a protected public area of green space - where the championship fan zone was located.”

Reacting to the findings, Coun Stanley Lumley, cabinet member for culture, tourism and sport at Harrogate Council, said while it was “inevitable” that hosting an event of such a scale will cause some disruption, the benefits to the people’s health were a positive.

He said: “This report shows that the UCI Road World Championships has inspired people to get more involved in sport. It is inevitable that hosting an international event of this scale can cause some disruption on day-to-day life. But the global television audience has no doubt left a lasting impression on what Yorkshire and specifically the Harrogate district has to offer.”

Rod Findlay, business services director at British Cycling, also described the event as a “truly momentous celebration of cycling” and said its “legacy” will be felt for “many years to come.”

The report follows an impact study commissioned by the borough council at a cost of £19,000 last year. It found 84 per cent of people who came to watch the event were satisfied or very satisfied with it, and that it resulted in a £17.8m boost to the local economy.

However, the study did not take into account losses by businesses affected by road closures and a drop in town centre footfall - something a separate review by the council’s overview and scrutiny committee is aiming to cover.

The committee’s review of the event was launched last year with the aim of “building on its successes and identifying any areas for improvement to inform the organisation of future events.”

As part of the review, a public consultation closed last month and the committee is now expected to bring forward a report later this year.