Great Britain

‘Extremely dangerous’ breaches at Yarm Fair

“EXTREMELY dangerous” safety breaches have led to calls for an urgent review of traffic control during an ancient fair.

Experts on the Independent Safety Advisory Group flagged up no fewer than 13 breaches relating to road safety barriers at last year’s Yarm Fair.

The annual report went before Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council leaders last week (January 23).

There was some good news – with the ISAG panel pointing to improvements in the layout of rides and ease of arriving at the fair last October.

And the earlier 10pm closing time was found to have reduced the amount of anti-social behaviour on the back of past concerns.

But “significant ongoing difficulties” managing traffic raised worries once again with the ISAG board.

The report added: “The council’s enforcement team have footage of 13 breaches of the traffic safety barriers which were lifted by the stewarding company deployed by the Showmen’s Guild.

“Two of these breaches actually happened when the fairground was in full operation which is extremely dangerous.

“The remaining 11 breaches occurred before the road closure had been lifted when members of the public were still on the carriageway.

“This is unacceptable and shows a disregard to public safety.”

Yarm Fair dates back to the 13th Century when King John granted the town its original charter.

It is now run and organised by the Northern section of the Showmen’s Guild.

Problems with visitor numbers, space, anti-social behaviour and the independently-run “Flashings” have reared their head in the past – triggering action plans by the council, police and the Showmen’s Guild.

On the back of the 2019 edition, the ISAG board called for an “urgent review” of controlling traffic for future fairs as part of extra work.

Reuben Kench, head of culture and leisure at Stockton Council, told the cabinet the vast majority of events in the borough tended to pass without concern.

He added: “Officers continue to work with event organisers – we met representatives of the Showmen’s Guild and had a very constructive discussion about areas of improvement and management.

“That’s certainly achievable for next year.”

The Local Democracy Reporting Service has contacted the Northern Showmen’s Guild for comment on the report.

The ISAG probe also flagged up some concerns with Stockton Firework display last year and the controls in place at the Billingham International Folklore Festival.

Mr Kench said the “massive crowd” for the fireworks was well managed but ISAG had flagged up concerns about anti-social behaviour and fairground rides on the High Street.

He added: “This is an area we believe we can resolve through some relatively straightforward alterations to the duration and location of some elements of the event.”

Cllr Jim Beall, cabinet member of culture, leisure and health, said the role of ISAG was very important.

He added: “Some people almost have this attitude that it’s almost like they’re jobsworths or killjoys who underline safety issues.

“Well, we’ve all seen some of the unfortunate and very tragic things that have happened in other places and we need to be cognisant that safety is put at the forefront.”