BOSSES behind a controversial series of mass cycling events have been forced to move their base outside Hampshire after months of controversy.
UK Cycling Events, organisers of the Wiggle rides, was barred from the home of the New Forest Show after a pony round-up on neighbouring land had to be cancelled on safety grounds.
And alternative plans to use Gang Warily recreation centre in Blackfield fell through, leaving the rides homeless.
Now Wiggle has abandoned attempts to retain a base in the Forest and moved to Matchams Leisure Park on the Hampshire-Dorset border. But cyclists will continue to ride through the Forest, possibly paving the way for another spate of complaints from locals.
A statement from UK Cycling Events said: “The route incorporates the same spectacular scenery of the New Forest National Park, combined with wild animals grazing and picturesque villages.”
Previous Wiggle rides have attracted more than 2,000 entrants. Riders have been accused of using the Forest as a toilet, shouting abuse at people who get in their way and hurtling along narrow country lanes – putting pedestrians and horse riders at risk.
Cyclists have been hit by acts of sabotage, with protesters putting tacks on the road and tearing down signs as tensions escalated. And the move to near Ringwood has failed to placate protesters, including the New Forest Equestrian Association.
Chairman Tony Hockley said: “Matchams can accommodate a couple of thousand cars, so we could be facing events on the same scale as before.”
Peter Roberts, chairman of the New Forest Association, said: “Cyclists will still ride across the Forest in rather large numbers, causing the potential to disrupt working practices.”
Last year a Wiggle event starting from New Park, Brockenhurst, clashed with a pony round-up due to take place on the same weekend.
The round-up was scrapped, prompting claims that cyclists were being given priority over the day-to-day running of the Forest.
As reported in the Daily Echo, organisers of the New Forest Show bowed to public opinion and banned mass cycling events from the site.
And a subsequent application to use Gang Warily resulted in parish leaders drawing up a list of regulations in a bid to protect the public.
Martin Barden, director of UK Cycling Events, said the use of Matchams would result in “no disruption” being caused to Forest residents.
He added: “We have moved to Matchams as the venue offers hard standing parking for all the riders.
“We chose to withdraw from Gang Warily as the decision-making process was taking too long and we wanted to ensure we had enough time to inform residents of our planned route.”