Keep public in the picture

Date: Tuesday 3rd July 2018

IT might come as a surprise to readers to discover that among those highlighting the problems in managing Appleby horse fair is gypsy community leader Billy Welch.

At a public meeting in Kirkby Stephen this week, Mr Welch said he had predicted the present problems from which the fair is suffering around 20 years ago and laid some of the issues of criminality at the door of the “wrong type of people” he said the historic event was now attracting.

The fair was getting out of hand, he admitted at the meeting, which was one of three being staged by the Multi-Agency Strategic Co-ordinating Group (MASCG) to gather public feedback following widespread concerns in the wake of this year’s Appleby gathering.

A large number of incidents, particularly in the Kirkby Stephen area, prompted anger among residents who were unsatisfied with how the fair was both policed and managed this year.

The clamour for action has led Cumbria’s police and crime commissioner to seek from the chief constable a review of the police operation around the fair, as well as a pledge from MASCG that lessons will be learned. They must be — as a repeat of the scenes in parts of Upper Eden this summer will not be tolerated by residents.

The voices of the people who suffer most from the annual influx of thousands of visitors must be heard — and they should have confidence that things are being done on their behalf.

For this reason, it is vitally important that any review by the chief constable and its findings are put into the public domain. Decisions regarding the operation of the fair have previously been made behind closed doors. It is time for that to change.