Fair seen as unwelcome inconvenience

Date: Monday 5th November 2018

Sir, I was interested to read the letter from William Lloyd (Herald, 27th October) in which he accuses me of exaggerating the impact in Kirkby Stephen of the Appleby horse fair for “political reasons”.

I have no quarrel with Mr Lloyd, who represents, by his own admission, only the traditional gypsy/traveller community which is now a minority of those who attend the fair.

By contrast I represent the whole of the Kirkby Stephen division following democratic elections which were held on 4th May, 2017, when I received more than 70 per cent of the votes cast.

A small minority of local residents benefit economically from the fair and therefore support it, but the overwhelming majority see the event as an unwelcome inconvenience and merely tolerate it.

That tolerance was stretched to the limit this year due to the unfettered antisocial behaviour and lawlessness of our annual visitors.

For several days the police were completely overwhelmed and senior officers have reluctantly come to accept that their statistics simply don’t reflect the situation on the ground. I’m sure they won’t repeat the same mistakes next year.

As a matter of interest, the policing review presented by Mr Slattery at the public accountability conference on 26th September, 2018, is available online for all to see and its limitations are manifest and obvious.

I don’t need to repeat my criticism or exaggerate any claims and I stand by everything I have said.

I am a Christian minister and feel duty bound to tell the truth. I have no hidden agenda or ulterior political motives and I have never tried to court popularity but simply to do what is right in the best interests of the whole community. In the process I have upset people who consider that my role is to serve their personal interests.

Safety has consistently been one of my major concerns. Encampments along the A685 have been tolerated in the past but there is an increasing acceptance that this is a highly dangerous practice and cannot be allowed to continue.

The same is true of sulky racing and horse trading in the middle of what is a very busy main road.

I certainly wouldn’t want to have to try and justify the current position — which is one of indifference — in a court of law in the case of a serious accident.

If Mr Lloyd wants to be constructive and helpful he should use what influence he does have to persuade his community not to come to the fair so early and go directly to the designated sites in Appleby, which would be the most straightforward solution to all the problems I have mentioned.

It is in all our interests to make sure this happens in the future. Yours etc,

PHIL DEW

(County councillor for Kirkby Stephen)

By email