AS I SEE IT: Health and safety red tape is killing off community events

As reported in the Clitheroe Advertiser and Times, another popular, community-based event has had to be cancelled due to potential health and safety issues and the cost implications arising from the need to address them.

Waddington Scarecrow Festival has offered a high quality and fun family day out since its modest beginnings 10 years ago, when the idea of the themed weekend was first put forward by villagers to replace the traditional Spring Bank Holiday village celebrations.

While the safety and wellbeing of visitors, residents and volunteers alike is obviously of the highest priority, it seems such a shame an event which united a community and provided a few days based on good old fashioned (and cost free) family fun, should fall victim to the bureaucracy and red tape that now governs all public events, large and small.

It is with increasing regularity we receive letters at the newspaper from frustrated residents and organisers of various events, most of them unpaid volunteers, who have worked tirelessly to host all kinds of community and fund-raising events, from charity bike races to fun runs, in aid of some very deserving local causes, only for them to have to be cancelled with very short notice when some obscure requirement cannot be met.

While looking into these requirements, I came across a document on Ribble Valley Borough Council’s website which drives home my point completely. It sets out the aims of the council’s Event Safety Advisory Group, which was formed to address “the effective communication, co-ordination and co-operation between all interested parties in order to ensure only safe, considerate and successful events are held in the Ribble Valley”.

This document alone runs to 14 pages and is enough to daunt even the hardiest of would-be event organisers, let alone a small village committee who have given up their precious free time for the good of their village and whose intentions are well meaning and community-spirited to the last.

Considering the growth in visitor numbers to the Scarecrow Festival, it is wholly understandable that more safety measures need to be introduced, but taking just one of these measures as an example, extra professional traffic management requirements were quoted at more than £3,000 – when the total cost of staging the event is only £5,000. Making the books balance is an impossible task.

Where is the support from local agencies who are surely in favour of events like this going ahead? Extra visitors to the area with significant revenue generated for local businesses in turn, surely make for a healthy local economy which benefits the area as a whole. Rules and regulations are a must for safety, but surely there is some middle ground? Common sense must prevail before we lose these invaluable community events for good.

KATIE HAMMOND