TENSIONS are rising between residents and a council over a major cycling event in September.

Concerns have been voiced to Durham County Council about its decision to co-host Vélo North with CSM Entertainments Ltd. The event will see up to 15,000 cyclists take on the 100-mile and 50-mile routes through the county, beginning and ending in Durham city centre, on September 1.

The route, which passes through several towns and villages, will see roads closed to accommodate the races – the first of its kind for the North of England – which the council says could bring 40,000 visitors and £2.7m to the economy.

However, several residents contacted The Northern Echo after the route was unveiled, saying they are concerned about road closures which they say could hinder emergency vehicles, especially in more rural parts of the county.

Other residents said they thought the event would not benefit local businesses, many of which would be cut off from passing trade, while some people in Spennymoor complained they were not on the route at all despite being surrounded by road closures.

Judith Mashiter, clerk for Middleton-in-Teesdale and Newbiggin Parish Council, said: “The council has expressed concern about it and we have written to Durham County Council twice about it and got nowhere.”

Mrs Mashiter said a public meeting was in the process of being organised by the Upper Teesdale Agricultural Support Services.

She said: “Residents have expressed concern not only about access for the emergency services but also the impact on businesses and although the organisers try to say it’s going to bring economic benefits, the businesses in the upper dale struggle to see how that can happen.”

Weardale County Councillor John Shuttleworth said: “Closing the A689 through Weardale on a holiday Sunday morning will disrupt residents’ lives.

“It will also have an adverse impact on local businesses, and the route needs changing immediately.”

However, Adrian White, head of transport and contract services at Durham County Council, said: “We have been working closely with the organisers, emergency services and transport operators to plan a route for Vélo North, which addresses the needs of highway users, residents and businesses, while showcasing the beauty of County Durham to thousands of people from across the UK.

“Letters have been sent to residents and businesses outlining the proposed route, which has also been shared with county councillors and parish councils.

“This is part of an ongoing engagement process aimed at identifying those who need support and reducing or removing as many issues as possible.

“Along with the major economic benefits it will bring, Vélo North offers riders of all abilities the chance to cycle on closed roads. An event of this scale requires closures along the full route to allow for the safe passage of all riders, but these closures will be implemented in stages to minimise disruption.”