Business leaders are calling on councillors to look at the impact on trade in Harrogate amid concerns about an upcoming major cycling event coming to the town.
A Councillor Question Time meeting organised by Harrogate District Chamber of Commerce will see businesses seek assurances about the UCI Road World Championship, scheduled to come to Yorkshire in September 2019.
Independent shop owners have raised concerns about losing trade due to the event which will involve roads being closed for more than a week as cyclists begin and end races in the town. Some have warned they may even have to close their doors for nine days during the event or risk running at an unsustainable loss.
Shop owner Sue Kramer, who is also a vice president of the Chamber, said: “We are extremely worried about the impact of a nine-day cycling event and associated road closures on small businesses in particular.
“For businesses already working on very tight margins, nine days of road closures could be catastrophic: some are already planning to close their doors for that period because they won’t be able to cover the costs of opening.
“We hope this meeting will be an opportunity to get some reassurance that the closures will be kept to an absolute minimum, and that the organisers and council are listening to businesses.”
The message from independent shop owners has been echoed by a consortium of chain retailers in Harrogate, who claim that the Tour de France Grand Depart – which passed through Harrogate twice in 2014, including a stage finish – had no discernible benefit to trade.
Raising concerns with Harrogate District Chamber of Commerce, they said assurances that the short-term disruption would bring long-term benefits had not proved correct, as footfall in 2015 was lower than in 2013 and the town centre has continued to struggle since then.
A representative from the UCI Road World Championship will also be present at the meeting to talk about preparations for the event, as well as councillors from Harrogate Borough Council. The Question Time event will also focus on other issues affecting local businesses including rates, transport and support for business growth.
The Chamber is inviting town centre businesses, and anyone else concerned about the impact of the event and other local issues, to attend and hear how they can take advantage of opportunities on offer as well as ensuring any concerns are heard.
Chamber president Steve Scarre said: “The rise of online shopping is making life on the high street particularly tough and as a Chamber we are keen to do all we can to protect our independent businesses and support the town centre.
“We are often told that big sporting events and the publicity around them boosts the local economy but for smaller businesses it can sometimes feel like a very fine margin. People come to enjoy the spectacle of the race, not necessarily to spend money in the local shops.
“We don’t want to see any independent retailers close their doors during the UCI World Cycling event because it doesn’t make financial sense for them to open. Harrogate is, of course, very reliant on its hospitality industry, which we hope will benefit from the event, but we do need to look at the whole picture and find a solution that will reduce the impact on smaller retail businesses.
“By organising this meeting, we hope to find a way to minimise the impact on local businesses and ensure Harrogate gets as much benefit from the event as possible. As a Chamber, we are always keen to do everything we can to work together and find solutions for the good of everyone.”
It takes place on Monday, July 9 in the Constance Green Hall at St Aidan’s C of E High School, Oatlands Drive, Harrogate. Doors open at 5.30pm with the business set to start at 6.15pm.
Attendance is free for first-time visitors, or £15 for returning guests, but registration is required via the website, www.harrogatechamber.co.uk