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Wednesday, 16 April 2014

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Border City Steam Fair will have to quit Carlisle park

The Border City Steam Fair has been forced out of Carlisle’s Rickerby Park.

Border fair photo 9
Border City Steam Fair

City councillors have agreed to accept a grant from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) that will prevent the event from being staged there.

The council divided on party lines, with the ruling Labour group keen to take Defra’s money while the Conservatives argued that losing the steam fair was too high a price to pay.

The higher-level stewardship grant is worth £228,000 over 10 years, but comes with conditions that rule out uses that might damage the park such as organised sports, rallies, camping, caravanning, shows and sales.

Talkin Tarn, Kingmoor Nature Reserve and some other sites are also covered by the agreement.

Conservatives said the council should accept the money for these but exclude Rickerby Park.

Doing that would mean foregoing only £4,000 to £8,000 a year.

Brampton Conservative Steve Layden said: “An event like the steam fair generates tens of thousands of pounds, perhaps millions of pounds, for the city. The knock-on effect is tremendous. We are risking that.”

Conservative leader John Mallinson said claims that the fair was damaging the park were “grossly exaggerated”.

But Labour’s Elsie Martlew, the environment portfolio holder, said: “The conditions [attached to the grant] encourage public access and are entirely in keeping with the council’s own objectives.

“I can’t see any reason why we shouldn’t accept the grant. We’d be foolish not to take advantage.”

She said the council would try to find an alternative venue for the steam fair.

The fair has been at Rickerby Park since 2009. It runs for three days over the Spring Bank Holiday weekend and attracts between 12,000 and 15,000 visitors.

Speaking after the meeting, organiser Graham Forster said he was disappointed by the decision.

He added: “We’ve built it up with the park and it’s really the park that made it.

“Whether we can get it to work somewhere else remains to be seen. It depends how many people enjoy the rally that much they would drive out of town, instead of just walking to Rickerby Park.”

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