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"The best start to the Tour ever"
Updated 1:09pm Saturday 12th July 2014 in News
A RECORD 35,000 cheering people packed Skipton streets for the 'best ever' Grand Depart of the Tour de France.
Many thousands more flocked to Craven to witness the first two days of the world's largest sporting event and to put the area firmly on the international map.
“The atmosphere in Skipton over the whole weekend was electric," said Skipton Mayor, Cllr John Dawson.
"It was amazing to see so many people lining the streets, all of them really enjoying themselves and getting into the spirit of the event. Saturday was a day I will never forget.”
Paul Shevlin, chief executive of Craven District Council, said it had been an 'incredible rollercoaster ride' and he felt privileged to have been involved.
"The weekend was a celebration beyond our wildest dreams. I can't be more proud of Craven or more grateful to everybody who has been involved," he said.
"The welcome the tour received in the district was truly heart warming and I will forever treasure the memory of one sunny weekend in July."
Cllr Simon Myers, Craven's lead member for the Tour, said the authority had journeyed into 'unmapped territory'.
"We had faith in our mission, but were still taken by surprise by the tremendous out pour of passion, emotion and support."
And council leader, Cllr Chris Knowles-Fitton said Craven had put itself on the world map.
"The secret is out, Craven is the best place to live with the best people. Let's reap the benefits."
Cllr Chris Harbron, leader of the town council, praised Skipton for getting behind the event.
"The town looked great, the television coverage was phenomenal and the best possible advert. You really can’t buy that kind of publicity. There were visitors from all over the world and now they’ve seen what Skipton can offer, I’m sure that they will be back – and so will many others who saw the coverage.”
And Dave Parker, chief officer of the town council, said a lot of serious planning had gone into making it what it was.
"All of the partner organisations involved in the planning of the event worked seamlessly together to ensure that everything went well and Skipton was shown in the best possible light to the worldwide audience and for the thousands who chose to watch the event in and around our town.
"My staff worked incredibly long hours, as did our colleagues across the board – but all of that hard work is worth it when you see the end result.”
But there were some logistical problems, particularly with filling car parks along the Tour route.
Buckden's John Davis, who opened his field to provide 400 spaces of car parking, rang the Herald on Saturday morning saying only three cars had parked there by 8.30am.
A spokesman from North Yorkshire County Council said due to an error the B6160 was closed at 5.20am rather than 6am. It was re-opened ten minutes later a half hour before the road was required to be shut.
In Skipton, Andrew Mear, owner of High Corn Mill, was left frustrated after opening a car park with space for 30 cars, but only two vehicles had parked in it before Chapel Hill was closed at 5am.
Graham Jagger, director of Pennine Events, which organised crowd management for the Tour's route through the area, said: "The roads in Skipton were closed at 6am and not a minute before. We always realised car parks operated on the race route were going to be disappointed."
But Mr Mear, the new chairman of Skipton BID, stressed that events such as the Tour are good for Skipton.
"This is what Skipton needs," he said. "I'd imagine some businesses on the High Street made piles of cash.
"The key thing is that Skipton had a fantastic day and the sun shined on the Tour."