ORGANISERS of a major cycling event will be asked to rethink road closure plans which residents claim will cause huge disruption in rural County Durham during the first weekend of the school summer holidays.
More than 2,000 cyclists will take part in the Etape Pennines on Sunday, July 20, which follows a 60-mile course through Teesdale and Weardale, starting and finishing in Barnard Castle.
However, event organisers IMG Challenger World, backed by Durham County Council, plans to have a series of road closures in place throughout the day.
A public meeting to discuss the road closures has been organised for 7pm on Wednesday, June 11, at the village hall in Eggleston, near Barnard Castle.
Ted Henderson, chairman of Eggleston Parish Council, said residents and businesses of surrounding villages had a number of concerns.
“There will be a lot of disruption. Teesdale is going to be locked off from Weardale, Barnard Castle and Staindrop from about 7am until after 2pm,” he said.
“This is the first Sunday of the school summer holidays and people trying to get to caravans and B&Bs are not going to get there.
“The businesses are up in arms – people can’t get to cafes, restaurants and pubs for lunch.”
Mr Henderson added: “The idea of this race is that it was to be held in October to extend the tourist season. July is the height of the tourist season.”
Durham County Council’s head of culture and sport, Steve Howell, has agreed to attend the public meeting and Mr Henderson said representatives of IMG Chellengers World had been invited, although a reply had not yet been received.
“I am hoping we will be able to convince them there is no need to close the roads completely for the length of time they are going to be closed.
“Other cycling events have rolling road closures that do not affect anyone else.”
He added: “I am sure if they really put their mind to it, then it could be done.”
IMG Challenger World brought the date of the event forward following feedback from cyclists who took part last year, after they said they would prefer the better weather conditions.
The organisers also say they work closely with Durham County Council to review road closure timings and minimise the impact on the local community.
Full details of the planned road closures are online at www.etapepennines.co.uk