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HOPES DASHED: Engine pulled from fair over safety fears

HOPES DASHED: Engine pulled from fair over safety fears

Yarm High Street, Image: Evening Gazette

Hopes to add a steam engine to a centuries old tradition at an annual fair have been dashed over health and safety fears.

Yarm Fair will make a return this week after last year’s edition was scuppered due to covid.

But moves to have a steam locomotive as part of the “riding of the fair” have been pulled at the eleventh hour.

Alan Gallafant, chairman of Yarm Town Council, said the riding tradition would still go ahead with him reading the proclamation.

“We’re just going to walk up and down the High Street – that’s not a problem as it will be blocked off anyway,” he added.

“But they don’t want us to have a steam engine.

“Because the road is closed, you’re not supposed to have anything moving on it so they won’t allow a steam engine.

“It would only be doing 5mph but hey ho – that’s the way it is.”

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.

The practice of galloping horses bareback down Yarm High Street has gone on for centuries – and dates back to a time when the fair was a livestock trading event.

But problems with the independently-run “Flashings” have sparked action plans by the council, police, and the guild in the past.

Panellists on Stockton’s Independent Safety Advisory Group (ISAG) flagged up 13 breaches relating to road safety barriers at the 2019 edition of the fair.

The group assesses all large events in public spaces in the borough.

Former mayor Cllr Peter Monck was upset the riding would be affected this time around.

“It’s riding roughshod over the heritage of Yarm,” he said.

The riding of the fair is still due to take place on Saturday morning.

The ISAG is independent of Stockton Council and is made up of emergency services representatives and professionals to improve safety

Cllr Jim Beall, cabinet member for health, leisure and culture, said event safety was continually assessed by the ISAG and the council.

He added: “While it is not the council’s intent to dictate the form of an event organised by a third party, as the landowner public safety is our priority – we have an overriding duty to protect the public.

“Yarm High Street is a challenging location and following a safety review in 2019 a number of enhanced safety measures were introduced to ensure visitor safety.

“ISAG have provided advice to the Showman’s Guild regarding Yarm Fair and also to Yarm Town Council regarding the “The Riding”.

“Both Stockton Council and ISAG will continue to work with Yarm Town Council and the Showman’s Guild to support the safe staging of their events.”

Yarm Fair will start on Thursday,

 

Words: Alex Metcalfe, Local Demcoracy Reporter


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