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Bec Hill Climb in crowdfunding appeal as soaring road closure costs threaten cycling event's future

Fears that event founded six decades ago could be "priced out of existence"...

One of the British cycling calendar’s best-loved events, the Bec Hill Climb, has turned to crowdfunding to try and raise £5,000 to secure its future amid concerns it may be “priced out of existence” due to a big jump in the cost of securing road closures. Organisers say Surrey County Council is adopting a "one size fits all" approach to cycling events, meaning it is seen in the same way as sportives that are on a different scale and attract greater revenue through entry fees.

The event was established in 1956 by the late Ron Beckett of Bec CC, with this year’s 60th edition, taking place at 2pm on 11 October 2015 at White Lane, near Limpsfield in Surrey. For the past 30 years, it has been organised by his son, Garry.

In an appeal for funding launched on Indiegogo, he explains that until this year, a Closed Road Order (CRO) for White Lane during the event has been secured from Tandbridge Borough Council.

Beckett says the district council “have always been happy to issue the order, and often would ‘call us’ early in the year to see if the event required assistance, rather than ‘us call them’ and jump through many administrative hoops to be granted a CRO.”

He continues: “Tandridge recognised the value of such an event coming to its area, as well as its historical significance to the Cycling Community, and were very keen to continue assisting the Bec CC in its aims.”

The CRO, he says, “came for nothing more than a quick courtesy visit to their offices, and a little printer ink for the notifications.”

Beckett says that with the help of family money, entry fees and sponsorship from the cycling industry, the event has grown in the decade since his father’s death in 2005 to “to bring more of a ‘spectacle’ to the fans in the way we delivered the event.”

That is all set to change, however, with Surrey County Council (SCC) now getting involved and telling Beckett that a CRO for the event will now cost around £3,000.

In an email from SCC’s events committee earlier this year, he was told: “As this event is a sporting event, you are required to close the road under Section 16A of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 and not the Town and Police Clauses Act 1847.”

According to Beckett, besides the £3,000 cost, there is “an incredibly time consuming amount of administrative conditions to be fulfilled, plus attendance of meetings with various Council Officials & Groups with an ‘Interest’ in how the event will be organised.

“We will require not only the funding for road closure, but the club will also see an increase in administrative costs to handle all the new logistics of this.”

He adds that the “bottom line in this change of policy, is that the Bec CC Hill Climb is now in danger of being priced out of existence … It currently has NO choice, but abide by these newly imposed Highway Regulations, which incidentally have been around since 1984, and have not been deemed necessary to implement for most events until the ‘Olympic Legacy’ raised sporting profiles within Surrey!”

In his Indiegogo appeal, Beckett says that he has held a number of meetings with SCC and has explained to them that the Bec Hill Climb is not a mass participation event such as a sportive, and therefore does not have the same level of income through entry fees.

He also pointed out to the council that the event’s footprint is small, given it takes place on a country lane with limited through traffic, but says the council “still to want to use a ‘one cap fits all’ policy for pricing and administration regardless of the size and local impact of our event in comparison to larger events held within their borders.”

Some concessions have been secured for October’s event, but he says that the council has made it clear that those are for 2015 only and they want future editions to adhere to all of their event guidelines.

Beckett had already decided to step down as organiser this year and concludes: “I would like to leave the event on solid foundations for my successor to work from ... but due to this current situation, the footings are in an incredibly shaky condition.”

Here’s the event’s fundraising page on Indiegogo.

Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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