A call has been made for objectors to hold a protest against the rescheduled Appleby Horse Fair.
The decision by the Multi-Agency Strategic Co-ordinating Group for this year’s fair to go ahead from August 12 has caused uproar with objections from residents in Appleby, Kirkby Stephen and surrounding villages.
In an online post the MASCG has been branded “not fit for purpose” by Eden resident Ian Outram who has suggested a protest could be organised.
Objectors to the rescheduled fair fear it could cause a COVID spike in the town and was a hot topic at the recent Appleby Town Council annual meeting.
Eden district councillor and elected member of MASCG Karen Greenwood (Ind, Appleby) said the decision had been made against opposition from herself and fellow elected member Phil Dew (Con, Kirkby Stephen).
She said the group had been faced with the risk of gypsy travellers flocking to Appleby in June if no other date was set and the fair running without any agency support.
At the online meeting, Appleby Manor owner Angela Dunbobbin questioned how health and safety guidelines will be followed given the thousands of visitors expected and asked how Appleby residents will be kept safe from a further spike of COVID-19 as a result of the influx.
“We are not out of this pandemic by any means. How are the MASCG and Appleby Town Council going to protect the community of Appleby when we have 20-30,000 people coming over the weekend?
“There are many local businesses that have struggled and to agree to hold the horse fair in one of the busiest months when we were hoping to gain back some of the losses we have had to stand, this feels really hard to have to close for a week at the height of summer in the tourist season,” she said, adding that she is not opposed to the fair itself but the August date.
Mrs Greenwood said both she and Mr Dew had relayed the views of the settled communities and argued it should be cancelled.
She added that she understood many of the pubs in Appleby and the surrounding villages will not open during the August fair.
However, Cumbria’s director of public health Colin Cox had told MASCG that by the end of July all people envisaged to have the vaccine will have done so.
Appleby councillor Hugh Potts said residents fear the August event will mean two horse fairs run this year.
Appleby resident Geoff Coward has written to MASCG chairman Les Clark, Cumbria County Council, Eden District Council and Colin Cox questioning how the fair can be moved to August when for years the gypsy travellers have relied on a “charter” saying it runs in June.
He said closing the Sands during the fair weekend could cause disruption to farmers during silage time and expressed concerns gypsy travellers will stay longer than the fair due to the school summer holidays date.