Loxwood canal centre ‘forced to close’ because of Velo South event

The Loxwood canal centre will be closed on September 23
The Loxwood canal centre will be closed on September 23

A major blow is facing a charity that organises waterway boat trips because of the closure of 100 miles of roads throughout West Sussex next week.

The Wey and Arun Canal Trust says it is being forced to close its centre in Loxwood on September 23 because of the Velo South event in which 15,000 cyclists are to pedal their way through the district.

Trust officials say that boat crews and customers won’t be able to get to their Loxwood site because access near the Onslow Arms pub off Loxwood High Street - one of the roads being closed - will be impossible.

The charity fears it will lose around £1,000 in much-needed revenue.

“It’s a double whammy for us,” said the trust’s boat group director Sandy Henney. The canal trust had to halt boat trips six weeks ago because this summer’s hot dry weather depleted water levels and is due to re-start trips on Saturday (September 15).

“And now this,” said Sandy. “We have lost a shedload. We can’t run anything on September 23 because of the road closures. We can’t get our crew in and our passengers can’t go and park their cars here.”

She said it was ironic that Velo South organisers - CSM Active - noted the canal centre as one of the highlights of the cycle route.

She has written to CSM requesting compensation for the trust’s loss of business but they “had not offered a penny.”

She added: “CSM is a multinational business. They are not organising this event for altruistic reasons – when does a private company go to so much trouble not to make a profit or gain any other benefit for their organisation?

“We feel let down by some of our elected representatives who seem to be accepting the arguments of a private company over the views of local people. And why is West Sussex County Council not lobbying for compensation for those of us who will lose income as a direct result of this event?

“Cycling is great exercise and a way to keep fit; no one wants to stop anyone enjoying the benefits of this wonderful sport. But shutting down 100 miles of roads at a cost to local people, businesses and charities like ours for reward to a private business seems both excessive and lacking in thought for local communities.”

A Vélo South spokesperson said: “We have been in dialogue with the Wey & Arun Canal Trust since April of this year and have tried to work with the trust to resolve their access requirements on September 23.

“We believe we have done all we can to find a workable solution, but all suggestions were unfortunately declined.”