Beleaguered Houghton Harriers are forced to search for new venue

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HOUGHTON Harriers’ Feast multi-terrain race, due to be held at Hetton Lyons Country Park, has been cancelled for the second time due to council red tape.

The Wearside club hoped to resurrect the race for their October 14 date after being knocked back by the Sunderland Council’s events committee for the first time in 2010.

The race had been held at the country park without incident since the late 1990s after they had been forced to move from their previous road course in Houghton.

But three years ago, after their successful 2008 race, they were asked to apply to the events committee for permission to stage the race at the country park. It was then that the Harriers’ problems started as the council insisted they needed to apply for a number of road closures.

The cost to the Harriers of about £1,200 would have been prohibitive for a race that attracted a field of only 60 runners.

Club spokesman Peter Dodsworth said: “We went back to the committee with a number of adjustments to the course and support from Feast councillors, but we were still unsuccessful.

“The race takes in a number of bridle paths and we were told we had to close them. The cost to us would still have been at least £500.

“We just couldn’t afford that amount of money for a race of that size. We had assured the council that the bridle paths would have been adequately marshalled during the race to safeguard the public.

“The committee suggested we should use Herrington Country Park, but it is a big site and we would have needed at least 30 marshals. Also, the park is not in our area.

“Now we are on the look-out for another venue for our race in Houghton. Unless we can find another site, it will be lost forever.’’

H Houghton Harriers have three athletes heading the grand prix standings going into the final North East Athletics League fixture at Gateshead tonight (7.0). Ben Mitchell (Under-15), Laura Fenwick (Under-17 women) and Owen Barrass (Under-17 men) top their categories.

Sunderland Harriers have Laura Hand in ninth in the Under-13 girls, Logan Powell second in the Under-15s, Samantha McKenzie sixth in the junior women, Anthony Barnes sixth junior man and Kevin Calvert seventh in the senior men’s table.

Plains Farm athlete Charmaine Porter (Jarrow and Hebburn AC) heads the junior women’s table.

The top six in each of the categories receives a prize at the annual presentation.

H Sunderland Harrier Mark Hood finished fifth (32.12) and clubmate Michael Barker (35.08) was 20th in the weekend Darlington 10k. The women’s race was won by Durham City Harrier Rosie Smith (34.55).

Result: 1 Yared Hagos (Wallsend) 30:24, 2 Mark Shaw (New Marske) 30:35, 3 Nick Swinburn (Morpeth) 31:22, 4 Kevin Loundes (Manx) 31:52, 5 Mark Hood (Sunderland H) 32:12.

Women: 1 Rosie Smith (Durham City) 34:55, 2 Angela Hunter (Jarrow & Hebburn) 38:44, 3 Y Thiru (W45, Elswick) 40:16.