A Tenby county councillor has hit back at local MP Simon Hart who has criticised Pembrokeshire County Council’s decision to call off the Ironman Wales sporting event for this year.

PCC and the event organisers confirmed on Friday (July 16) that the Ironman Wales 2021 triathlon event, scheduled to take place on September 12 in Tenby and it’s surrounding areas, has been postponed until next year.

In supporting the postponement, Clr. Phil Baker, PCC’s Cabinet Member for Major Events remarked that the decision had been taken with ‘public safety rightly at the forefront’.

“Given the sheer number of spectators that have always supported Ironman, the narrow nature of parts of the course and the uncertainty that remains over the Covid-19 situation, following extensive discussions with organisers we have reluctantly decided it is not possible for us to support the event this year,” he said.

However, MP for Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire, Simon Hart has since criticised the decision, stating that Tenby was ‘rammed full of visitors’ over the weekend, and the ‘risk’ of hosting the Ironman event in September, will be ‘no greater then than it is now’.

“Perhaps it’s because my son will have now trained for two cancelled Ironman events that I’m especially disappointed that the Council - independently of Welsh Government - has decided not to proceed with this year’s event,” commented Mr. Hart.

“None of us can predict where Covid might be by September and we have all learnt that with this disease it is full of unwelcome surprises and we can ‘never say never’. But we have to try and make decisions based on what we know, rather than trying to second guess hypothetical future scenarios.

“So it’s quite clear that everyone who met on Friday to take this decision knew that social distancing rules are to be dropped in August and large scale outdoor events will be permitted – for example Wales’ GreenMan festival got the go ahead last week as have a range of significant outdoor events,” he continued.

“We also know that by then another large tranche of our population will have had their second jabs, with people heading back to work and restoring some order to our economy.

“So I’m not sure what level of ’safety’ the Council seeks that can’t be managed by the middle of September? If it’s not safe to proceed after Welsh Government’s recent comments, then Pembrokeshire County Council should have pulled the plug weeks ago, allowing athletes and businesses to plan accordingly.

“It now looks like they were waiting for Welsh Government to make the call and take the rap.

“It could be a simple, and understandable, case of the Council officers who made this decision being fearful that hosting a large event ‘could’ result in blame were there to be an outbreak of Covid directly linked with it, which hasn’t been the case in the two test athletic events already hosted in Pembrokeshire this summer.

“And anybody who visited Tenby this weekend will have found it rammed full of visitors. Ironman won’t add to those numbers in September, it will just replace them in what will by then be the off season. In other words the risk will be no greater then than it is now.

“The problem is that these reasons will look to some like confected concerns created in order to avoid making a difficult decision. Zero-risk is an unachievable ambition, so we need to manage it sensibly, and include in that the area’s economic well being.

“As we know, compared to being inside, outdoor events carry a much reduced risk of infection. The crowds are in fresh air and well-spaced out, and the ’rules of engagement’ around Covid well-rehearsed, especially amongst athletes who are hyper attuned to their own health and that of their families and supporters.

“And let’s not forget - Ironman generates nearly £4million for our local economy, a boost needed more this year than ever. Not only that but it extends our season and promotes ‘brand Pembrokeshire’ nationally and internationally.

“We all have to make judgments and I’m well aware how tricky it is to get these judgment calls right every time, especially where public health is concerned. But on this one occasion I think it is the wrong call,” added Mr. Hart.

County councillor Michael Williams, who represents the Tenby North, has said that he applauds the County Council in making the decision to postpone the event, and in doing so, recognises that the safety of the community must come first.

“Mr. Hart makes no mention of those that live in the area, in particular Tenby where the decision is overwhelmingly welcomed, indeed by many businesses that I have spoken to, and they have suffered enormous financial loss over the Covid pandemic,” said Clr. Williams.

“Many, in particularly the elderly are currently extremely worried by the huge influx of people that we are seeing at this moment, and actively avoid crowded areas due to the fact that the UK has the highest incidence of Covid in Western Europe due to the incompetence of the Johnson Government.

“This not the time for Mr. Hart to make petty political points, it’s about protecting our local community and acknowledging and understanding their genuine concerns.

“Ironman by its very nature attracts huge numbers from around the world, and given the current situation this was a correct decision.

“I personally love the Ironman event, and a member of my family has taken part, but I recognise that the safety of my community has to come first at this time. For once PCC, well done!” he added.