Despite an eleventh-hour legal threat to Sunday’s controversial Velo cycle event around the South Downs, the county council leader today urged residents to give the participants a ‘West Sussex welcome to be proud of.’
But Louise Goldsmith also made clear that she understood the strength of feeling and repeated her promise of a review meeting after the event.
With just days to go before the 100-mile closed road cycle event is due to take place, the county council is still dealing with a ‘legal process’ to try and stop the event from happening.
The pre-action letter sent to the council by five residents earlier this month made a ‘number of claims’ about the procedure and arrangements for Velo South, due to be held this Sunday.
It warned that if the road closure orders are made, a legal challenge would follow. This includes ‘an urgent application for interim relief prohibiting the event from taking place, pending the final determination of the proceedings’.
Campaigners fear that road closures will make the area a no-go zone and are concerned that emergency services would struggle to get through should they be needed. There is anger that there was not sufficient public consultation.
Mrs Goldsmith said: “Given there is a current legal process in place I can’t say too much at the moment but what I will say is I do really understand the strength of feeling this event has created.
“For some people it has really challenged them and I do not underestimate their concerns.
“What I have also heard though, as I have made my way around the county, is people in full support of an event like this.
“West Sussex is changing and we have to accept that, for a long time now we have not been the very traditional rural county we once were. This event is seen by some as very un-West Sussex but it reflects modern day life and interests.
“I have tried to hold dear to the reasons we wanted to run it. Cycling is a hugely popular sport, one with great health and environmental benefits. Being part of a big spectator sport event is a fantastic thing for communities. That is something that should be welcomed and celebrated in our county.
“After the event we are planning, as previously promised, a wash-up event, where we want to hear the voices of everyone involved and their experiences.
“I hope, for everyone involved on Sunday, that we pull together as a county and welcome visitors and locals alike to enjoy a fantastic event in a peaceful and positive way.
That’s what we want to be known for as a county, one that is open to new ideas, events and initiatives. Let’s give these cyclists a West Sussex welcome to be proud of.”