The Greenwich councillor in charge of overseeing last Sunday’s Run To The Beat half-marathon has admitted “errors” were made in the way the event, which closed off great swathes of Greenwich, Blackheath, Charlton and Woolwich, had been handled.
Environment cabinet member Maureen O’Mara told a full meeting of Greenwich Council that “things could have been done a lot better this year in terms of speaking to residents”.
The event, a commercial enterprise held by sports management firm IMG and sponsored by Nike, took place for the fifth time last weekend, but the only notice residents had was a densely-worded list of road closures, with a map appearing separately in the council’s weekly newspaper.
Blackheath Westcombe Conservative councillor Geoff Brighty told the council that the race had been given the nickname “the siege of Westcombe” due to the lengthy road closures, effectively sealing off that part of Blackheath as well as other areas.
Referring to the answer given to an earlier public question on the race, Cllr Brighty said there had been no proper public consultation and any plans to review the race with IMG would just see the issue “kicked into the long grass”.
In response, Cllr O’Mara – whose full-time cabinet post includes overseeing Run To The Beat – said: “I now know more about Run To The Beat than I ever wanted to know about Run To The Beat.”
“But errors were made this year. It’s about speaking to residents about what roads will be closed, and giving them much more notice.
“This forthcoming session with IMG is not about kicking stuff into the long grass. If this race is to return to the borough, it needs to be with residents fully understanding what’s going to happen in their streets, and what’s going to happen with licensing.
“And we need to think – well, what does this bring into the borough? I certainly don’t want go through again, the anguish of the past four weeks. We have to be absolutely clear about why Run To The Beat is here in the first place.
“If residents say they don’t want it, then we’ll have to talk to IMG about that.”
She added only two complaints were made about the licensing applications for sound stages – although no consultation is needed for road closures if they get Government backing, which RTTB did.
“Run To The Beat seems to create more trouble than the [London] Marathon, so there are questions to be asked about how much earlier members and officers can engage with organisers.”
You can hear all of the exchange between Geoff Brighty and Maureen O’Mara here, although the quality isn’t great:
It’s all welcome – the serious question is what the area gets out of RTTB, and it’s debatable whether there’s any real benefit other than to IMG and Nike – but Maureen O’Mara’s concession that things had gone wrong came out in a torturous manner. The public question Geoff Brighty picked up on actually came from me, inspired by the responses I’d had from the posts on this blog. Curiously, O’Mara’s written response to me was very different – basically, bland council officer-speak which didn’t really answer the question.
When you ask a question at a council meeting, you get to ask a verbal supplementary question, so I thought I’d point out this out as well as the grumbles from her Labour colleagues too.
Nobody put me up to it – it just perplexed me that they’d been ignored, and hadn’t made much of a secret about their bad feeling about the event.
Funny how she changed her mind and admitted all kinds of errors within about 15 minutes of that exchange.
And that it took an intervention from a Conservative, not one of her Labour colleagues, for her to admit all kinds of things had gone wrong. It’d have been easier if she’d been more frank earlier on. Or maybe even listened to the party colleagues she falsely accused of putting someone up to ask questions on her behalf.
This stuff isn’t hard, is it?
But hey, as she told a planning meeting in the summer: “This is Greenwich, and we do not do this in Greenwich.”
Has anyone seen on the Run to the Beat website, on the map page they quote “18,500 runners are expected to run the Docklands course”. Do the organisers even know where the event is?
On the other hand on the site the organisers would like to thank the residents of Greenwich for allowing the event to go ahead. But nobody asked us in the first place! And as usual Greenwich Council have failed yet again to do a proper public consultation.
Who exactly does this event benefit?
[…] Maureen O’Mara admitted “errors” in the way the Run to the Beat event was […]
IMG and Nike.
(And the runners, of course.)
No one wants to be a killjoy and any activities to raise money for charity is welcome. The London Marathon makes a significant contribution to improve sports facilities around London and Greenwich has done well in this regard. Run to the Beat is a completely different story. They raise money from the entrance fee and seems to end up in the organisers back pocket. My colleagues and I are determined to see changes and the interests of residents are paramount. I am totally fed up making excuses for the Council. No more.
It’s pretty easy, Greenwich Council. If the organisers want to apply to run it again next year, let them pay for the Council to hold a proper consultation with ALL residents regarding road closures and intrusive music. Or, you could have a repeat of this year and rubber stamp it through and to hell with what the people who elected you think about it all.
I have watched this event for the last few years and this year I am glad I took part along with three other Greenwich friends. There were a number of people spectating (far less than the marathon of course). Depsite the cold it was a great day out. All in all about 12000 people took part and the roads were open by early afternoon. Having had a summer of sport it was a good event to get my fellow friends from the pub into training. I note from the website that interest can be registered for next years event. I certainly hope the council will work with the organisers to create a long lasting Greenwich half marathon taking residents concerns into consideration and inspire future generations to get out running.
Okay here’s the thing. Can any of the nimby whingers on here tell me what Run to the Beat ACTUALLY stopped them from doing on Sunday? What terrible inconvenience resulted? Go on, something concrete. I really hope the council notices that thousands of people had a great day out in our borough and ignore the malcontents that populate these kind of blogs. I ran it, the atmosphere was great, Greenwich looked both beautiful and buzzy. But hey Fahy and his like had to wait a couple of hours to take their Mondeo to the car wash so lets scrap the whole thing….
Hi Bobby T, how would you like if you it if you woke up on Sunday, planning to go see friends only to discover that you were locked in? The main problem for me was the complete lack of notice. If it wasn’t for sites like this and the other nimby’s then I wouldn’t have had a clue about the event being on.
BobbyT. I understand that several hundred people were unable to get to their churches within the closed-off part of Charlton & Westcombe Park. I was unable to take my five year-old son to Greenwich Park as it is too far for him to walk. But I’m sure you had a lovely time so that’s OK then. There are plenty of other half marathons you can run if you want to. You can even run the same route as RTTB (as I do) without having to close off the roads – ever thought of that? Why not take your iPod along too?
thanks Steve for putting the realities of the situation – I was going to quote a complaint I had from a plumber who couldn’t get to an unexpected emergency call out, and said how his reputation and thus his business would suffer.
Hmm. While I’m no fan of RTTB (and made sure I avoided it this year by getting out of the area), some of these ‘problems’ do seem a bit artificial.
Several hundred people couldn’t get to church? Really? Do they *all* drive, and found it impossible to park outside the cordon then walk in? Strikes me that any truth in this is likely to be down to a reliance on the car and an unwillingness to adapt in any way.
Equally, Steve, you couldn’t take your son to Greenwich Park. Obviously I’ve no idea how far a walk it would have been for you, but is he really unable to make it the 25 minutes or so it would take from Westcombe Park? (Apologies if he has some mobility impairment.) Couldn’t you have gone to the Pleasaunce or Charlton Park if they’re closer?
The overpaid superannuated council clowns trumpet on about their green credentials and yet their abysmal organisation of this event and the total lack of warning or publicity will have doubled their carbon footprint and sent pollution levels through the roof. But I’m sure their overtime and expenses claims won’t be affected.
The problem with any consultation to the public on this event is – what are you actually consulting about?
The event is supported by Central Government, and so the road closures don’t require consultation; the licensing process could only limit where the music stages are placed and the Council would be hard pressed to reject the licence application for a one day, daytime event. Besides, the event is probably already green-lighted before any licence application ever arrives (not to mention as to if it even needs licensing in the first place).
All that is left to “consult” then is: “Do you want it?”. And if a vocal few say “NO!” – what then? Should we scrap every event that has a bit of opposition? We’d never have any fun!
All that is left then is to communicate the event to the public likely to be affected by it. A “Just to let you know, these roads will be closed during our event on this date at this time and so it may be difficult to use your car. We recommend that you make alternative arrangements if you need to travel on this day. Sorry for the inconvenience.” note would be nice. But only if it can be done on the cheap.
Are we saying then that our council can not under any circumstances say , “no we are not going to licence this event ” ?
John – you are entirely missing the point: It doesn’t matter if I am affected or inconvenienced. But when hundreds, if not thousands, of people are inconvenienced or worse, they have the right to ask “so what are the benefits of this being allowed to take place?”. Hence the need for consultation.
Chris 2 – Also missing the point. Roads are closed for all sorts of reasons – London Marathon, Fireworks, Run For Life. RTTB has very little going for it and a lot against it – unlike the examples I have given. If the council ask THOSE AFFECTED and they say “no thanks”, what’s your problem with that little bit of democracy?
Steve makes a salient point – why is RTTB so unwelcome when people are more than happy to host the Marathon and Fireworks? And people are quick to assume that anyone affected is a motorist. Ever tried getting a bus on RTTB day?
Steve, ‘thousands of people inconvenienced’? Really. Well I ran 13.1 miles round the streets of Greenwich and I only saw people clapping and cheering. Where were the hoardes of the discontented? (Sitting at their computers, scanning blogs for something else to gripe about?) You know sometimes in life you have to just take a deep breath and think, you know this thing’s not really for me, but, hey there would appear to be lots of people getting something positive from it, so perhaps just for this morning I’ll change my routine a little. Just for one day. And maybe even give all those sweaty people in yellow t-shirts a cheery little wave as they go by….
BobbyT You really don’t get it do you? Would you prefer it if we came out and booed the runners? If you want to get a measure of how popular RTTB, just compare the number of people clapping and cheering with what you’d see on marathon day. No comparison – there’s a sprinkling of supporters along most of the route for RTTB whereas the pavements are two or three people deep for marathon day. If you don’t think that thousands of people were inconvenienced, you have no grasp of the scale of the “condoned off area” in terms of population numbers. As for your patronising remarks about scanning blogs for something to gripe about, what a marvellous chap you are scanning this blog for entirely positive reasons.
Dave: “Are we saying then that our council can not under any circumstances say , “no we are not going to licence this event ” ?”
If it did, the organisers would undoubtedly appeal. And I’m betting that if it went to appeal, a Magistrate would rule that the event doesn’t event need licensing – there is an exemption in the licensing act that if music is incidental to some other activity (say a race!) it does not require a licence.
What the council can do, is simply to refuse permission for the event to take place. It’s their land (or ours, I suppose). We have that right. But to do so it should be satisfied that its residents don’t want the race. Which leads me onto Steve’s question: “If the council ask THOSE AFFECTED and they say “no thanks”, what’s your problem with that little bit of democracy?”
The answer is I have no problem with democracy. But, simply, I think the nay-sayers are a vocal minority and that more people support the event, or at least are happy to tolerate it than the other. Especially when you take into account the runners themselves, their families and supporters.
If I turn out to be wrong and the event is shelved (more likely moved) next year due to public opposition, then I’m happy to stand corrected on that point.
So, you think that it’s a vocal minority that are against it whilst I think it is a silent majority. I’ve got an idea – LET’S ASK PEOPLE WHO ARE AFFECTED and let the Council decide accordingly. You’ll be happy, BobbyT will be happy, I’ll be happy, we’ll all be happy.
Steve, I totally get it. I had a great day out, pushed myself, achieved something, shared something positive with thousands of others. You couldn’t get your car out your street for a couple of hours and have obviously worked yourself up into a fury. A feeling shared with, well quite frankly, three or four people on this blog it would seem – despite the ‘thousands’ you claim to represent. Why not plan something next year that involves hopping on a train at Westcombe Park. Simples.
I don’t represent anybody and neither do you. I am not in a fury. By the way, the roads were actually closed for five hours round here, stopping people getting in/out/through by bus and bike as well as by car. I’m glad you enjoyed the day out. I’ve got that part of your message.
@BobbyT as a resident of the Westcombe area, and knowing a lot of other people who are also residents of the area, we were effectively housebound for the entire day, unable to even pop down to the local shops to get milk or other supplies.
Some of us work Saturdays, so Sunday is the only day we have free and then to be shuttered in by an event that, and I speak from experience of talking to everyone I know in the area, not one of us wanted or even were properly told what the effects of would be, is a bit beyond the pale.
Sorry to pop your self righteous bubble, but nobody wants this event around here, and yes, I don’t speak for ‘thousands’, but I do speak for every person I have spoken to about this event. We simply don’t want it.
Steve, you say that I’m entirely missing the point, that it doesn’t matter if you’re inconvenienced. Apart from the fact that it clearly matters to you, isn’t it exactly the point that you, and scperi, and Mark were inconvenienced, and you are among the individuals who make up the hundreds or thousands you refer to?
So, it’s worth exploring what that inconvenience amounted to. If it’s a minor annoyance, maybe it can be shrugged off in the name of the enjoyment that BobbyT and his fellow runners got from the event. If it’s more substantial, then maybe it’s worth getting worked up over.
So far, I’ve seen you unable to take your son to the park, Mark unable to buy a pint of milk (Housebound? Really? Couldn’t nip out and walk down to the local shops? Couldn’t walk up to the Standard?), and some unspecified others unable to get to church.
Without any further information, these seem potentially pretty trivial to me, so let’s look at the churchgoers.
It could be a couple of hundred people, of limited mobility, unable to drive to church, and deprived of their main or only social contact for the week. Or, it could be a couple of dozen, who normally drive to the church door, and were peeved at having to park a hundred yards away, on the other side of the cordon.
If it’s the latter, I don’t think there’s any merit in exaggerating the scale of the problem: if, realistically, it amounts to a couple of dozen folk complaining about having to park in a different place to usual, and then do two hundred-yard walks on a pleasant Sunday morning, it strikes me as a minor issue. Not to be ignored, but to be weighed appropriately.
My own view is that the silent majority probably shares my own indifference to the event. I think it’s discourteous to have inadequate information; I think it’s a bit of a pain to have road closures for an event which has no engagement with much of the local community. But most of the inconvenience we’ve heard about so far here can be mitigated or avoided, maybe with a slight change of plan. Unless there’s evidence of more substantive problems, I’m reasonably content to simply mutter and grumble again about RTTB next year.
(Oh – for the record, I live in the closed-off area. I was inconvenienced in the morning: I had to manoeuvre my bike round some road closure barriers at the top of my street to meet a group for a bike ride, rather than being able to simply ride away. I think this was trivial. If I heard someone trying to use this as a reason not to have an event needing road closures, I’d mock them.)
How arrogant of you to set yourself up as the judge of what is a “trivial” inconvenience for other people about whom you know nothing. Why or why can’t you see that proper public consultation would get us away from all this speculation?
The trouble here is like many things in this area – like weeds in your garden, minor aggravations grow unless they receive prompt attention.
You can forgive a neighbour’s one-off loud party if they give you some warning and maybe invite you along. But if they don’t talk to you and keep on doing it, it starts to grow as an aggravation.
Sadly, that seems to be the fate of RTTB.
OK Steve, tell us what wasn’t trivial for you, or for others.
I’ll point out that I said ‘potentially trivial,’ and at least implied that further information was needed to judge, so let’s keep this civil and try to get at some of the information. The only thing I actually said was ‘trivial’ was the tiny extent to which *I* was inconvenienced that morning.
As for speculation not consultation, sure this is a speculative discussion, and I don’t see anything wrong with that. But maybe if there are some concrete facts it would help lay the groundwork for asking for consultation next time.
John – nobody appointed you as the person in charge of establishing anything, whether they be facts or opinions. Hopefully, the Council will have learned their lesson from this one and there will be consultation before they give the go ahead for any further RTTBs.
Steve, if you don’t want to engage in discussion, and simply do your best to patronise me and others, that’s entirely up to you.
I don’t need your advice or permission, thanks. I think Darryl has summed up the situation quite nicely in his last comment, so let’s leave it there.
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