‘Crippled’ businesses bemoan cycle races

Sidmouth High Street. Photo by Alex Walton

Sidmouth High Street. Photo by Alex Walton - Credit: Archant

Shopkeepers have blasted the effect cycle races held on the eve of the Tour of Britain had on their businesses as an ‘utter disaster’.

The Criterium events last Thursday saw streets closed off and was blamed for cancelled deliveries, empty car parks and shops and restaurants losing up to 50 per cent of their daily takings.

“Never in the world of council stupidity has so much damage been done to local tourism and business so quickly by so few,” was trader Robert Gliddon’s damning indictment.

The races were organised by Sidmouth Town Council with the Sid Valley Cycling Club (SVCC) and British Cycling and required the erection of some 1,300 safety barriers. A total of 142 cyclists took part in a dozen races and organisers said the event was ‘well received’ by riders, their families and visitors. They added that lessons will be learned if the event is repeated.

Speaking last Friday, The Loft owner Katrina Lort said: “The Tour of Britain was fantastic – it was yesterday (Thursday) that was the problem. We were down at least a third, and every shop was saying exactly the same. It crippled the town. They’re saying it’s bringing in millions. Today should have been a bonus – it’s just made up for the losses yesterday.”

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Roz Kendall, who owns The Filling Station, said the Criterium races had been an ‘utter disaster’ that cut her takings in half.

On-street parking was stopped at 9am and many roads were closed from 11am, but the first race was not until 4pm. Wendy’s House owner Tracy Spray said: “Why were the roads closed so early? The town was dead. It killed trade for the rest of the day.”

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The Rendezvous owner Steve Clarke said: “If they try to do something like this again, I’ll organise a protest – we will sit in the street before the next race. There are ways of organising the event so the town can still operate.”

Councillor Simon Pollentine, who chairs Sidmouth Town Council’s tourism and economy committee, said: “Members and the chamber of commerce were very supportive of the Tour of Britain and associated events and felt that, should it ever return, they would take on board any lessons learned from last week.

“They felt that the larger picture in increased advertising for the town, promotion and providing a different event for people to experience would more than make up for any short-term disruption. Sidmouth would like to promote cycling and hopes to do so in a spirit of co-existence with residents and traders.”

The SVCC’s Dominick Horrell said he hopes any businesses that lost out will see future benefits when those who enjoyed the races return to the town, adding: “We received many emails from riders and their supporters saying that they had enjoyed the racing and the hospitality of Sidmouth and would definitely be back.”

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