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Thursday, 02 October 2014

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Mix-up puts the brakes on start for Malcolm Wilson Rally

A MIX-UP has forced the annual Malcolm Wilson Rally out of Cockermouth town centre for the first time in the event’s 18 years.

The rally, next Saturday, normally brings thousands of people to the town.

But a road closure order has not been filed this year for Main Street, where the money-spinning event has started since 1995.

It means that the rally will start from the M-Sport headquarters in Dovenby, where there are no spectator facilities.

The administrative error has also thrown the future of the event in the town into jeopardy.

Rally organisers claim that Allerdale council was responsible for the failure.

The council disputes this and says that organisers ignored its advice.

Malcolm Wilson, sponsor of the rally and managing director of M-Sport, said: “I am very disappointed as the rally is something I created and personally put money into this event.

“It has brought more than £2 million into the area and it is very sad to think Allerdale council couldn’t help sort something out.

“There is no question I will look at moving it somewhere else next year.”

The council said it reviewed its procedures, which found that the county council was the appropriate body to grant the road closure.

Allerdale council claimed it informed the organisers with an appropriate timescale, but it was ignored.

A council spokesman said that alternative venues had been investigated but an agreement could not be reached.

Ronnie Sandham, rally secretary, said: “When I was organising last year’s rally I received a phone call from the council saying they may not be able to legally close the road next year.

“I wrote asking what to do but I received no reply so I assumed everything was okay.

“I requested the closure as normal in December but it wasn’t until after Christmas when I received a reply saying they couldn’t do it.”

When directed to the county council, she was told there was not enough time to put the closure in place.

She added: “The council has not shown any initiative or done anything to help this event.”

An Allerdale council spokesman said: “We worked with the rally organisers to investigate a number of alternative rally start venues, including Market Place and the Wakefield Road car park, with spectator positions along Main Street.

“Unfortunately, all the alternative arrangements proved unacceptable.”

He said the council was only recently informed that the organisers had decided to start the rally at Dovenby Hall instead.

Alan Smith, Allerdale council leader and Cockermouth town councillor, said: “We have bent over backwards to try to help them but they have decided to go elsewhere.

“The rally is seen as the beginning of the festival season that builds up to things like the Solstice picnic and the carnival.

“It is important to us and is a big weekend for the town. It’s disappointing.”

Jonty Chippendale, chairman of Cockermouth’s chamber of trade, said: “We are very sorry that the rally won’t take place on Main Street this year as all the bed and breakfasts fill up and a lot of money is brought into the town.”

Rally cars will drive down Main Street from 8.30am, but will not stop. The finish point will be at the Lakeland Livestock Centre, just outside the town.

The event sees drivers from all over the country compete in forest stages, including Wythop.

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