(8 September 2013: The route has since changed – for up-to-date details, click here.)
Here we go again…
In case you haven’t seen it already, here’s (most of) the planned route for 2013’s Run to the Beat race, planned for 8 September, as revealed by The Charlton Champion on Thursday.
Despite a large number of complaints about the race’s route, and lobbying by local councillors, it retains the circular route which shuts local residents in, despite the start and finish being moved to Greenwich Park. The only people freed from this seem to be residents of Berkeley Homes’ Royal Arsenal development, while access to the new Tesco in Woolwich has also been made easier. Everyone else, it seems, will have to lump it.
Indeed, to avoid Woolwich town centre, the race will now enclose Charlton Park on three sides, cutting off access for scores of Sunday footballers.
Organisers are saying they will be able to open up roads earlier, but despite Greenwich Council cabinet member Maureen O’Mara conceding that mistakes were made in (not) talking to residents in 2012, it looks like the same mistakes are being made again. This map was obtained unofficially – when I asked organisers for a map, they sent me a boilerplate press release about the race.
Let’s quote O’Mara:
“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.”
Since then, silence. No full public consultation as demanded by members of the local Labour party of their Labour council. And Labour councillors unable to explain why their lobbying of their own Labour council has come to nothing. No wonder why two have them have had enough.
How closely has Greenwich Council been watching Run To The Beat? Not close enough, it would seem. Council officers did not compile any written debriefs or reviews of of past races from 2008 to 2011, according to a Freedom of Information Act request submitted last year.
Since the streets have already been closed for the London Marathon, Greenwich Council has to apply to the Government for permission to close the roads. In 2012, the council’s agent Project Centre implied the race was a charity event – it’s not, it’s a commercially-run event.
“The proposed Order is necessary to enable the Run to the Beat half marathon, an annual music-themed fund-raising event in support of several nationally-recognised charities, to take place on Sunday 28th October 2012. The Order would impose “rolling” road closures, which would be controlled and supervised by the Police, as the runners progress along the route. In most instances alternative routes are not required as the roads will be closed and re-opened again within a relatively short space of time.”
(Thanks to Steve Smythe for submitting the Freedom of Information Act request to get this document.)
In the absence of any meaningful consultation, let’s have that discussion here. And let’s start with Maureen O’Mara’s point: “We have to be absolutely clear about why Run To The Beat is here in the first place.”
Why is it here? We already have the London Marathon, which is brilliant, so why would we need another one? The only convincing explanation I’ve heard is that Run To The Beat exists solely to promote the interests of the council’s friends at AEG Europe, owners of the O2.
Indeed, it even has a poor reputation among runners – with complaints last year that competitors were given cups of water rather than bottles (you try running with a cup and see what happens).
But an event like this could be a good thing. Road closures could give communities the excuse to have street parties. The joy of the London Marathon is that is brings people together. Why doesn’t Run to the Beat do this?
And Greenwich Council clearly wants to host a half-marathon. I was in Bath a few weeks back during its half-marathon and there was genuine excitement over the event and a happy atmosphere in the city. Run To The Beat just makes me want to leave town for the weekend.
So, to use a favoured council phrase, why doesn’t it “show leadership” and institute a different route throughout its borough? With imagination, it shouldn’t be hard to create a half-marathon route which can wriggle its way from Avery Hill Park, Eltham, through Kidbrooke, across Woolwich Common and back through Charlton and Greenwich.
Look, I’ve just knocked one up. A proper start at Avery Hill Park, passing Eltham Palace, attracting spectators to Eltham High Street without closing it, passing through a rejuvenated Kidbrooke, crossing Woolwich Common, and a loop up through the peninsula before a grandstand finish in Greenwich town centre. I’m sure you could do better, so feel free to have a play.
Or maybe the council should just tell Run To The Beat to take its race elsewhere. As it stands, there’s a petition to reroute it so it doesn’t shut people in. Councillors are also keen to hear your views.
So should we do with Run to the Beat? Let’s have a vote…