Pressure for changes to city’s charter fairs

August 04 2017
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TALKS are to take place about the charter fairs held in Wells every May and November after complaints from the business community.

Traders say that the twice-yearly fun fairs in the Market Place are bad for business, hitting shop takings and hotel bookings. With the fair licence up for renewal next year, they are pressing for changes, such as moving the fun fair to a different location and having a medieval-type market in the Market Place instead.

“We feel that the manifestation of the charter fair as it is is bad for Wells,” said chamber of commerce chairman Robert Powell, who raised the issue at a meeting of the city council’s city centre and open spaces committee.

“If it was a medieval market with hoop throwing, say, and everyone dressed up in medieval costume, it would be unique, interesting and more attractive for visitors and locals.”

Adrian Lawrence, owner of The Crown in the Market Place, says he will close the hotel to overnight guests if the fair goes ahead next May – even though it could cost him up to £6,000 in lost revenue.

“We have to refund people every year anyway,” he said.

“I don’t think a 2017-type fair is appropriate in Wells Market Place.”

He said hotel guests complained about the noise and disruption caused by the fairs, especially when the rides are being dismantled in the early hours.

Sally Jones, manager at Steamer Trading Cookshop, said: “The charter fair as it is at the moment doesn’t fit in with the city. It’s grown too big.

“It does affect trade. It does affect access for suppliers.”

The Wells May Fair and November Carnival Fair are Royal Charter Fairs granted by King John in 1201.

Mayor of Wells Councillor John North said: “We are very lucky to have the patronage of the Rogers family who bring the fair to the city twice a year.

“We want a fair that will attract people to the city, and we are always looking for ways to improve. We should always talk about how we can improve things.”

The city council is to hold meetings with fair representatives and Mendip District Council, which has responsibility for the licensing, to discuss the issue.

The Showmen’s Guild of Great Britain is the negotiating body for travelling showmen. Its nominated member Shaun Rogers for James Rogers and Sons and fair historian Richard Green confirmed that talks are to take place but would not make any further comment at this stage.

A spokesman for Mendip District Council said: “As far as Mendip District Council are concerned there will be no changes made to the charter fair in Wells for the foreseeable future including a change of venue.”