Cumbria police are planning for Appleby’s historic horse fair to go ahead, despite the disruption caused so far in 2021 by the ongoing coronavirus crisis, a meeting has been told.
Inspector Peter Aiston told Kirkby Stephen town councillors that while it was difficult to see past COVID-19 at the moment — with much of the force’s business being all coronavirus enforcement related — every eventuality in respect of Appleby New Fair, which takes place annually in June, was being planned for.
He said he had reviewed police staffing models for the event and it had been decided to stick with the arrangements which were in place for 2019.
“I think they worked really well, especially in Kirkby Stephen, and along the A685, working with highways and other partners to try and prevent any dangerous encampments turning up.
“Likewise in the town, looking at trying to prevent people tethering horses to awkward places and things like that,” said Insp Aiston.
The meeting was told work was ongoing and it was still very early for decisions to be made, but Insp Aiston said it was important that they start to think about what the issues were going to be in various areas, so measures could proactively be put in place to address any concerns which communities may have.
“We are planning for the fair as if it was to go ahead as any other normal year,” said Insp Aiston.
He added: “It is highly likely that we will be in some sort of tier system by then, hopefully out of lockdown, but I can’t see there being so much freedom in our movement that we can allow a few large gatherings of people, such as Appleby fair, so it’s going to be a challenge.
“I like to think that we are going to be in a better position, probably by Easter time whether or not the gypsy and traveller community will be wanting to do some sort of fair.
“Whether they do it in a way as they would normally, or with reduced capacity, remains to be seen, but we need to plan and prepare for every eventuality.”
Paul Richardson, who chaired the town council meeting, said: “If you could emulate 2019 again, if it goes ahead, as 2019 was excellent for Kirkby Stephen.
“Previous years had been fairly poor, but it really did help the locals, the amount of police was very good.”
In a written message to members of Appleby Town Council, Insp Aiston set out the police plans and said wooden posts would be put back into verges where there have previously been issues.
He added: “COVID is an issue, we know that there will likely be restrictions in place. This presents a different challenge, I hope a decision can be made by Easter as to whether we ask for the fair to be cancelled or reduced significantly, depending on legislation at the time.”