On Sunday, up to 19,000 runners will pound through Greenwich, Blackheath, Charlton and Woolwich on the Run to the Beat half-marathon. The forecast is set for mild weather, and you never know, it may actually be a success. Indeed, you’re probably reading this after the event and will know how it went.
Many of those thousands of runners will be exerting themselves for good causes. This is not a charity event, so others will have paid £55 to prove something to themselves that some of us won’t even manage half of. But unwittingly, those up-to 19,000 customers of Run to the Beat have been caught up in an extraordinary battle between, on one side, Greenwich Council and organisers IMG, and on the other, local residents and councillors in the area affected.
So keen has Greenwich Council been to rubber-stamp the event in the face of continuing objections from locals and councillors – many of whom who represent the Labour Party which supposedly runs the council – that this website understands even senior council officials are unhappy about publicity for the race published in the council’s own newspaper.
It’s worth remembering this row doesn’t happen with the London Marathon, which is twice as big, and causes the same inconvenience. With our streets on show to the world, people swallow a day of hassle out of neighbourhood pride. The same arguments won’t ever apply to a low-profile race which is imposed both on residents, and their elected representatives.
The imposition point is important, because alternative routes have been suggested, and have been ignored. Instead, thousands of local residents are cut off by IMG and Greenwich Council’s insistence on a small circular route, presumably to save IMG money, but which is also unsatisfactory for runners. This year’s diversion via the riverside path at Angerstein Wharf looks set to be particularly grim.
In many ways, the battle over Run to the Beat has become less about people being unable to take a bus to hospital, or even being stopped from crossing over a main road, and more about Greenwich Council’s failures to listen or learn from criticism – something which is finally catching up with both its leadership, and those who have been cowed by it.
Remember the assurances from environment councillor Maureen O’Mara last year? They’re worth repeating again.
“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.”
Did they? Did they heck. 853 reader Steve Smythe wrote to Transport Secretary Patrick McLaughlin about the road closures caused by Run to the Beat – for legally, the council needs to go through the Government for roads which have already been closed for an event in the same year – and was given this reply from civil servant Amanda John, sent to her by Greenwich Council.
However, this website has established that formal residents’ groups – usually spoken to in lieu of a proper consultation – weren’t asked for their views. The Greenwich Society tells me it wasn’t spoken to, nor was the Blackheath Society, and it’s understood the Charlton Society wasn’t consulted either. The Westcombe Society was spoken to because it complained; while the Charlton Central Residents Association spoke to organisers in November 2012, again because it complained.
Only groups who complained, it appears, were consulted, which would explain the appearance of sports groups on the list, since early plans for this year’s events proposed cutting off the football pitches in Charlton’s parks. What’s clear is that even after five years, there’s still been no serious, proactive attempt by either IMG or Greenwich Council to gauge residents’ views on the event.
Did the council lie to the government? Was the council itself fed duff info? I’ve certainly heard accusations that council officers were told to make sure Run To The Beat was licensed, at whatever cost – obviously this can’t be substantiated, but suspicions like this will fester in an atmosphere when residents and elected representatives are ignored.
What’s for sure is that there’s been no great public rethink about what Run To The Beat does for the locality.
While it’s true councillors met organisers in November 2012, a promised follow-up meeting never happened – instead, they were invited to a meeting on Thursday night at short notice. Some councillors, I am told, “have never been so angry”.
Indeed, it’s actually possible that councillors’ treatment has led to them being angrier about the event than their constituents, who at least can choose to stay in bed while the race is on.
But most astonishingly, I understand even Greenwich Council officers are unhappy with the way IMG has promoted the arrangements for the race. Indeed, even the council website acknowledges “some local residents may not yet have received printed leaflets from the organisers”.
Ads have been taken out in its weekly newspaper Greenwich Time, but I’m told director of culture, media and sport Katrina Delaney is unhappy with
the lack of information on them, and they way they seem to be about promoting the RTTB brand – they merely refer people to the Run to the Beat website. Why Delaney herself hasn’t been more proactive in distributing information, or ensuring IMG’s ad was correct, heaven alone knows. But since her job is in reputation management, and promoting the “Royal Greenwich” brand, it’s certainly a case of the biter being bit.
And while there is a residents’ helpline – 020 8233 5900 (open 7.30am-2.30pm) – it has only been publicised online. It doesn’t appear on the numerous yellow signs dotted around the area. The event still doesn’t appear on Transport for London’s journey planner (despite a tucked-away website page), so while roads are meant to be reopening earlier, it’s anyone’s guess when bus services will resume.
And all this, for a measly £10,000 to the council, with the promise of double next year.
It may well be that the sustained criticism of this year’s Run To The Beat will lead to a better event. But it shouldn’t be this way. After all, this should be fun, like the London Marathon is. A true Greenwich borough half-marathon would be great. Involve Eltham and other areas that don’t have the brilliant experience of the marathon, and break the circular route which cuts so many off.
Perhaps we should look to the London Marathon Playing Fields in Kidbrooke as an example. Why doesn’t Run To The Beat sponsor a community facility on its route? How about getting it to cough up for the Maryon Wilson Animal Park in Charlton, which is having trouble raising funds? Supporting the community rather than the council would be a way forward for an event with serious PR problems.
But instead, Run To The Beat has become emblematic of just how Greenwich Council under Chris Roberts has become arrogant, overbearing and more interested in big business than its residents. And until things change at the town hall, the race will always be a problem rather than a party.
For details about the Run To The Beat route and maps, click here and scroll down to ‘residents’. A residents’ helpline will be open until 2.30pm on 020 8233 5900, staffed by IMG and a council officer. If you have any issues, let your local councillor know – and it’s also worth copying in Greenwich Council chief executive Mary Ney on the email (email@example.com).
Which numpties at Greenwich Council agreed to the run to the beat organisers extremely noisily dumping a series of portaloos along Southern Way, a residential street, in the early hours of Sunday morning. This operation began at 4.45pm, involves two large delivery vehicles and some bloke on a moped and is still continuing as I type, engines loudly running, at 5.20am! I don’t particularly look forward to the view of these loos or queues on Sunday afternoon as I’m having lunch. What is strange is that on my way to the supermarket around 4pm I spotted a driver making a quick drop of a second set of portaloos positioned along the non-residential Bugsbys Way just between Sainsburys and Comet. Not sure why given the acres of vast wilderness on the Peninsula, the loos just had to be deposited along Southern Way and in the middle of the night in particular for this race. So glad that I didn’t vote for any of the incumbents of Greenwich Council and never will. Nice little earner for some I’m sure.
Sorry – that should have read ‘4.45am’. Although the race has now been running for around 3 or 4 years, last year inexplicably the route was for the first time diverted along Southern Way. The dumping of the portaloos has just ended some 45 minutes later at 5.30am.
Ouch, PP. Make sure this gets reported.
Seems to have gone off okay here in Charlton, but then I’ve not left the house all morning. Any other reports/experiences would be appreciated.
Seems like I’m the only one complaining… although I have since heard reports of moved and scratched cars along the route. Btw just to clarify they were containers rather than portaloos – couldn’t see until the trailers had moved on.
A few tweets from runners complaining about the route, including this one:
Although more seemed annoyed by having Jessie J wheeled out to entertain them, it seems.
Oh, and this. Whoops. (The coconut water is a sponsor, I think.)
Traffic and transport-wise, loads of people fooled by the closures today. Many more trapped in than for the London Marathon. The best one was the Tesco delivery van in Sundorne Road at 1000 or so. The driver had obviously overnighted somewhere and was trying to get to work!
At 1300 there was queue up Charlton Chruch Lane to just by the fish and chip shop. Don’t know why everything was coming down the hill, presumably the top was still not open.
To add to the above TFL tweeted 19 minutes ago the 380 was ‘back on line of route’. Shame they haven’t told the driver of the 380 my daughter’s boyfriend is on. He’s going along the top.
Also I was in Deptford this morning. Not one person knew that Greenwich town centre was closed.
Wife and daughter went out to watch! Traffic Chaos in Charlton. Lots of people on Charlton Road waiting in both diredctions for buses that were not going to come and cars trying to get out of Victoria Way, Marlborough Lane, Church Lane etc and having to turn back. My girls said it was frightening watching lines of motorists all trying to turn in a tight space without bashing each other. They were not impressed wiht the organisation of this event and it sounds like things were bad elsewhere.. Just where was the advance publicity?
More complaints from runners.
How about the residents have a whip round, raise £20,000, give it to the council so that it doesn’t go ahead next year?
Can I just make a small point of order, you have to pay to take part in the majority of mass participation sports events. charity run or not, be that Ride London 100 (£48), London Marathon (£50) or one of the many triathlons which happen around the Royal Docks.
Yes, of course you need to pay a fee, those Portaloos aren’t cheap. Admin doesn’t do itself etc.
But at least with a charity arranging things you know that any excess will be going to a good cause. As it is, a lot of people have been inconvenienced and any profit goes into the pockets of IMG who don’t give a toss about people like me or you.
[…] The route was confirmed at fairly short notice this year, after an earlier version saw it cut off Sunday footballers in Charlton’s parks. But despite assurances from Greenwich Council cabinet member Maureen O’Mara, and claims made by the council to the Department of Transport, there has been no meaningful consultation with local residents. […]
Yes, you have to pay to take part in these things, they cost money to organise. If you have a charity place, the charity pays for your entry and you have to raise a certain amount of money. That’s how it works.
Companies like IMG Challenger World make a good old lot of money out of these events, so they should take more responsibility in making sure they are organised properly and with regard for locals.
Incidentally, I paid £35 for my ballot entry into next year’s London marathon, not £50.
Coconut water was being given out at the end of the Blenheim triathlon this year, maybe it’s a thing now. I’ve never heard of it being given out during a race before though, what’s wrong with good old fashioned water?
on a positive note! As a local business, and one which suffered terribly last year at the hands of Olympic event organisers, (which put many out of business in Greenwich) if IMG and Greenwich Council now take proper consultation with residents groups and thoroughly investigate the future route for potential bottlenecks and disruption to residents, then the event could be good for Greenwich. IMG chose Greenwich Cycle Hire for their bikes for track marshal’s, giving us much needed revenue in lean times, and doubtless a multitude of independent establishments benefited financially from the massive influx of runners and support staff. It’s never going to suit everybody for sure, but if it gets more people into thinking about exercise rather than getting in their cars, it has to be good. Road closures are always going to be controversial, but I for one would like to see more of them closed and opened up to cyclists and pedestrians and public transport only- but that’s for another discussion! The idea of IMG contributing to/supporting financially a local charitable organisation in return for the considerable amount of money it doubtless makes from such events is a winner, and I feel is a must for next year. The extra £10K could make the difference between survival and closure to a local organisation, and residents affected could be allowed to vote for which is to be the beneficiary out of a select number of options.
Lets fight the massive over development of high rise accommodation around Greenwich without adequate open space and play areas for children, but lets encourage anything which gets people out of their cars and onto their feet, as long as it’s organised properly.
Derek. They took in over three quarters of a million in entries alone. They must have made a killing A measly ten thousand is an insult, only given this year for the first time under pressure. They really need to open their purse strings to make it worthwhile
Harvey, Yep inclined to agree with you there. How about pushing for 100K then via residents groups and council, with proceeds going directly to local causes of our choosing via residents vote. If they really do make 750K on entries alone and the only other option to coughing up a sizeable figure is to lose the event, it could be made to work- but it would need the council to do it, and on current track record, is that likely? If there are any opposition party members out there willing to take this forward you could gain a lot of support from disenchanted labour voters? Certainly I’d like to hear more from any local businesses like ourselves that actually benefited from RTTB, to see whether the 10K was added to anyway by visitor spend?
Yes Derek, their takings are vast. Think about it. 19,000 runners paying a minimum of £40 entry each (some paid a lot more) IMG have their overheads but seem very stingy about goody bags and support services and all the comments on running websits suggest that runners didn’t get value for money. The 10 thousand this year is supposed to go to sporting legacy in the borough whatever that is and the council will do the choosing about where it goes.. I think 6 or 7 council wards got this event and IF the cash goes to them they might get 1500 each if they are lucky. The council could spend it on sporting admin or a single project in an area that wasn’t affected. No one knows how it will get dished out. AT present locals seem to be getting no choice about it. I have heckled my councillor (elections coming) and if everyone who has entered this blog did the same it would help. As for visitor spend it might have happened in some places, which is great but in others the only places open were corner shops for a can of 7Up. Maybe not what visitors would get excited about..
Another important issue that has so far been ignored in this debate – and which should also be the subject of public consultation – is the closure of part of Greenwich Park in support of this for-profit commercial venture.
I am very concerned that Royal Parks in general, and Greenwich Park management in particular, understand that the public do not want the parks to be commoditised and commercialised like this.
The Park is a vital and much-loved public realm, and should not be leased out to private entities for the exclusive entertainment of paying customers.
With this sort of event, the council should make very public the cost to the council to host the event.
And also how much the council receives back from the organizers to cover costs (we know this will be £20K next year).
The council should make a tidy profit.
Impact to small businesses should also be assessed, where I guess some will be winners and some will be losers.
As I really hate to give up even half a day to some company leeching a profit off me, understanding that Greenwich gets a good deal would make me feel better.
As for how much it costs Greenwich to put on I cannot tell you. If you put in a Freedom of Information request you should get an answer.if you work at it. As for what Greenwich gets. Well, it gets the glory of hosting an event that don’t even get 5 seconds on local tv. WOW!
In money it gets the advertsising revenue that Darryl says goes to Greenwich Time. Now it gets the license money for the music, licenses but didn’t in the first year. IMG pay for the clean up operation. The ten thousand (rising to 20 thousand) is not to cover costs such as wear and tear to facilities. It is supposed to be for sporting legacy in the borough. If it gets spent across the areas who bear the brunt they will get just over a thousand each.Might buy a few footballs . No one knows what it will really be spent on. It could go to a big project somewhere else in the borough. So ask your councillor where it is going.
In general compensation the council, you and me get nothing as far as I can tell. Oh the council gets the glory mentioned above.You and me get the aggro and IMG gets a big fat profit.
There’s obviously a lot of people out there who are totally totally ‘anti’ RTTB, and probably with just cause. BUT I can’t help feeling that if this event were:
1: to learn from it’s problems with route planning etc and put in place a route which has no bottlenecks and is still interesting enough to attract the runners.
2: to get the financial rewards to Greenwich sporting legacy more in proportion to the rewards to IMG
3: to ensure better advance publicity to minimise vehicle snarl up’s
4: to ban Jessie J and coconut water company sponsors (most important)
…….then I really feel Greenwich can get something out of this, rather than listing objections.
Even £1000 to each ward for a local sports club would do more than ‘buy a few footballs’, but if we were talking about £10,000 to each ward affected? We desperately need to provide for example more indoor and outdoor sports facilities to engage teens and get them off the streets. When did you last see a decent well maintained outdoor basketball court in your area for example, I’ve seen several around Eltham/Mottingham areas which are a disgrace- but quality outdoor facilities are everywhere over in the states. Or how about an Astro pitch for 5 a side footie and hockey? Too expensive for council budgets maybe, but with assistance from IMG? (and good/excellent PR for them too)
i wonder if the complaints are really about the ‘aggro’ locals are suffering, or whether the thought of a ‘big corporate’ (who we all love to hate let’s face it) making money at our expense is the real issue. So let’s just make sure its WE who get the benefits just as much if not more than IMG.
IMG are a huge events company, and they should be more than able to get this right and rectify the problems from the past. 20,000 runners could have a great day out. Local kids and adults could be inspired into keeping fit and enjoying doing so. And maybe even locals could benefit by thinking about what they could do just one more sunday a year without getting in their four wheeled polluters to go to Bluewater (sorry had to get that one in, controversial though it is!)
I think these points should be put to Greenwich council and IMG and give them both ONE more chance to get it right for the runners, for themselves, and mostly for Greenwich.
A lot of IFs between what there is now and this vision of an ideal compromise. Good luck to you in achieving any of it. . .
[…] of the cabinet member after the councillor raised concerns over this year’s race, which the council leadership pushed through without promised consultation with local […]
[…] Since Monday’s story was published, this website has learned further details about Chris Roberts attitude to the controversial Run to the Beat race, which went ahead this year without a promised consultation with residents. […]
[…] event has long been mired in trouble, with residents complaining of poor information and upheavals; with IMG insisting on running the race on a circular route via Greenwich, Blackheath, Charlton and […]
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