Fears about future of public events as May Fair called off

March 27 2019
Fears about future of public events as May Fair called off

ORGANISERS of some of the biggest events in Wells say that is increasingly difficult to stage them because of council bureaucracy.

Wells Lions have already announced that this year’s May Fair will not take place because of what they say are the demands placed upon them by Mendip District Council. They said in a statement: “We have been holding community events in the city for 44 years and have staged the May Day Fair for the last 14 years, without incident.

“We fully understand the safety of the public at any event is paramount, but the demands placed upon us by Mendip Council this year means that as a small volunteer charity group, we do not have the resources to devote to the extensive requirements that the council is seeking to impose.”

The day before announcing their decision, representatives of the Lions – which also organises the Moat Boat Race – were at a meeting in Wells attended by a number of other events organisers amid growing disquiet about the staging of events. The meeting was called by Andy Coulson of Wells Rotary Club, organisers of the Reindeer Parade, and Kirstie Harris of Wake Up Wells.

Others attending included representatives of St John Ambulance, Wells City Band, Priddy Folk Festival, Visit Wells, the civic society and the local police team, as well as Wells county councillor Tessa Munt and city councillor Philip Welch.

“We are all motivated from the same end: to try and provide something for the community,” said Andy. But, he said, everyone had been having trouble with the district council’s Safety Advisory Group. “They’re called the Safety Advisory Group but they’re not prepared to give any advice.”

“People are being put off by this horrible event management plan,” said Kirstie, who said that it was intended for events such as Glastonbury Festival and was not really size-appropriate.

“They are not helpful at all and they are over-zealous,” said Wells Lions president Paul Clegg.

Picture: Four of those who were at the meeting to discuss the staging of public events: Chris Borrison of Wells Rotary, Kirstie Harris of Wake up Wells, Andy Coulson of Wells Rotary, and Wells county councillor Tessa Munt

Fellow Lion Ian Burt added: “There won’t be any events if they are not careful.”

A letter and a petition were both suggested as ways of seeking greater understanding and co-operation from the district council. It was agreed that a sub-group of those attending would get together to decide what to do next.

Mendip District Council said in a statement: “We are aware that some concerns have been raised about the support of the Mendip Safety Advisory Group (SAG) which is overseen by the council but is also made up of partners including Avon and Somerset Police, South West Ambulance Service, Somerset Fire and Rescue, and Trading Standards.

“It would be untrue to suggest that the council is trying to prevent events taking place in the district. The aim of the Mendip SAG is to encourage events to take place in Mendip but at the same time the Mendip SAG is there to ensure that these events take place safely and successfully. A large number of successful events take place across the district every year with the support of Mendip SAG.

“The key to a safe and successful event is ensuring that there is a strong event management plan and risk assessment in place. Provided a clear plan with mitigated risk are presented to Mendip SAG there would be no reason for an event to not go ahead. All of the partners involved in the Mendip SAG do not set out to prevent events, the aim of the Mendip SAG is to ensure safe and measured events take place across the district.”