THE annual Ilkley pancake races enjoyed by countless schoolchildren, local businesses and residents alike, have been cancelled this year due to escalating costs.

The event has been organised for the past eight years by The Rotary Club of Ilkley as a community event to bring people together within the town centre on Shrove Tuesday. Schoolchildren, adults in fancy dress, representatives of Ilkley businesses and local media have all taken part in the fun event, while volunteers from The Rotary Club of Ilkley, have successfully managed the closure of The Grove.

However, this year Bradford Council has informed Rotary they will need to employ the services of a Traffic Management Company.

Event organiser Geoffrey A Maldwyn-Jones, secretary of The Rotary Club of Ilkley, said: "After eight highly successful years the annual Ilkley Pancake Races will this year be cancelled, due unfortunately to the fact that we, The Rotary Club of Ilkley will from now on have to employ a Traffic Management Company to arrange the closure of the Grove in Ilkley, the venue for the event. The estimated cost would be in the region £1,500 to £2,000 a figure we as a charitable organisation cannot afford.

"The Ilkley Rotary Pancake Races from inception was always intended to be a community event and not in anyway a fund raising event.

"We have over the past years, without the need of a Traffic Management Company, successfully managed the closure of the Grove, the notification of impending event signage, arranged the road closure paperwork, and the actual signage, organised the risk assessment, and the provision and distribution of no waiting cones at 5am in the morning, and also arranged the provision of St John Ambulance to make sure that the event supported by over 12 schools and over 360 schoolchildren continued to flourish.

"It saddens me that this action has been forced upon The Rotary Club of Ilkley, especially when the Annual Pancake Races have become such a significant event within the Ilkley community."

The news has been met with dismay by local councillors. Councillor Martin Smith (Ilkley, Con) said: "This clearly a district council focusing on cuts at the front end of service to the public without any strategic view of community cohesion."

Councillor Anne Hawkesworth (Ilkley, Ind) said signs were already available and questioned what the problem was that needed more input from consultants.

She said: "It is extremely worrying that the public events we have in Ilkley are becoming increasingly under threat. Our public events produce attractions for visitors into the town and also, as with this - the pancake race - for the community. Our events need subsidies to enable them to take place.

"I have been approached by a charity for brain tumour research to support the initiation of a new Easter bonnet parade but the small seed corn money needed will be difficult to obtain and, with the extra burden as indicated by Rotary, a hopeless task."

She added: "It does however indicate the need for joint committee meeting on events in the town if we are to retain any for the future."

A Bradford Council spokesperson, said: “It has always been the responsibility of those who organise events to make sure that road closures are handled safely and the rules on this haven’t changed in recent years. The police would sometimes step in at their discretion to direct traffic but this is no longer the case. That means groups who want to run events on the highway have to use people who have the relevant accreditation and training. This usually means using a traffic management company but courses are available in traffic management and some local organisations have arranged training for their volunteers."

Mr Maldwyn-Jones added: "The police have never been involved. Since the inception of the Annual Rotary Ilkley Pancake Races some eight years ago, the closure of the Grove has been organised by the Rotary Club of Ilkley who have successfully managed the event up to now and Rotary International have provided the Public Liability Insurance cover.

"The Health and Safety issues remain the same, whoever manages the event, and have been taken into account in the Annual Risk Assessments.

"It is ironic that we can all support the closure of the roads of Ilkley for teams of international professional cyclists, but the newly introduced ruling from Bradford Metropolitan Council, sadly, directly discourages local Ilkley charities supporting the local Ilkley community."