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Craven is warned of gridlock from Tour de France
9:00am Thursday 6th February 2014 in News
A bleak picture of lengthy road closures and queuing traffic was painted to Skipton businesses at a meeting to discuss the Tour de France.
Highways and emergency planning offices from North Yorkshire County Council said they wanted people to be in no doubt of the scale of the event, which will come through much of Craven, including the centre of Skipton, during the first weekend of July.
Skipton High Street was described as a “race venue” with thousands of spectators expected to line the route for several hours from very early in the morning.
Around 30,000 people were expected to camp at Bolton Abbey, 15,000 at Broughton Hall and thousands more at Kidstones, Kilnsey Velofest and Malham.
It was the equivalent of putting the population of Keighley up on the moors, the meeting in the town hall heard.
Skipton High Street itself would be closed to additional spectators if numbers exceeded health and safety limits of 11,000 and travelling around the area was expected to be difficult both in the days leading up to the event, and in the days afterwards.
Skipton bypass, although remaining open for as long as possible, would have to be closed for up to two hours before the race headed up towards Grassington.
Tom Bryant, from the county council, said the council had wanted residents and businesses to be clear of the size of the event so they could be well prepared.
“We are expecting up to a million people across the two stages, which is simply unprecedented in North Yorkshire,” he said.
Around 80 per cent of temporary car parking was on grass and was dependent on fine weather, which meant alternatives would have to be found.
He said the closure of roads along the route would be for an “absolute minimum” of eight hours and stressed much time was needed to make sure the routes were race fit.
“We don’t want to become renowned as the place where the Tour de France got stuck because traffic management did not work,” he said.
Inspector Will Scarlett said officers would work 12 hour shifts and would work closely with other emergency services.
“It is going to be hard, but we are going to try to deliver a normal service. There will be massive pressure on us, and we will have to prioritise,” he said.
But the meeting was told the event was also a fantastic opportunity with benefits being reaped for many years to come.
Dave Parker, chief officer of Skipton Town Council, explained how the High Street, the focus of the race on Saturday as a designated ‘spectator hub’, would remain closed also on the Sunday.
He said it would encourage people to stay in the area, with a special market on the still closed High Street, and large screens showing the progress of the race and later, a family film.
Sharon Hudson, of Craven District Council, said a massive amount of work was under way to make sure the event passed off as smoothly as possible, but she did add that shops and businesses were unlikely to do roaring trade on the Saturday, as once in place, spectators would be unlikely to want to move.
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