Police pull plug on Clough Hall Park fireworks display in Kidsgrove due to safety concerns
A TOWN's main bonfire and fireworks display has been cancelled after police raised safety concerns.
Kidsgrove Rotary Club, which organises the annual bonfire at Clough Hall Park, says it had not been given enough time to make improvements requested by Staffordshire Police.
The fund-raising event, which attracts 2,000 people to the park, was due to take place on November 3, but organisers say police raised concerns over health and safety only on September 25.
This followed a 'disturbance' outside the park during last year's event, which resulted in an officer being injured.
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Police say they cannot support the event until certain measures are put in place. The improvements, requested following a meeting with organisers and Newcastle Borough Council, include:
increasing the number of stewards from 12 to 30;
ensuring stewards are professionally briefed on roles and responsibilities;
providing improved crowd barriers around the bonfire;
and providing additional temporary lighting all around the park.
John Howe, chairman of the club's bonfire committee, said there was no way the club could find an extra 18 stewards in time and the improvements demanded could quadruple the cost of organising the event.
The 74-year-old, of Mellor Street, Packmoor, said: "If the police had given us more time, we would certainly have tried to meet all their requirements, but three weeks was just not enough. .
"They wanted us to provide 30 stewards, and they would all have to be properly trained. We normally have about 12 stewards.
"We were surprised when the police mentioned the incident from last year, as we weren't aware of it. We've been running this event for 42 years, and we've never had any trouble."
Mr Howe said the event usually raised up to £6,000 for local and national charities every year.
He added: "We are disappointed that we've had to cancel it, but it's just one of those things. Charities are going to lose out as well, and it's not good for the council either, as they want to see their facilities in use."
Kidsgrove councillor Kyle Robinson, pictured right, said he did not believe the safety improvements were necessary.
He said: "This is just an over-zealous attitude from the police. This event has always been well run by the Rotary Club, and I don't think the support from the police is all that could be desired."
He added: "This is an important community event in Kidsgrove, and we don't have that many."
Sergeant Mark Speedman, from Newcastle borough local policing team, said the police had a duty to ensure the safety of the public and their officers.
He said: "Public safety is a top priority for Staffordshire Police and organisers of all public events have a duty to meet certain requirements.
"As a result of the event in recent years we raised our concerns regarding the overall safety of the event with Newcastle Borough Council and the organisers themselves. We expressed concern with regards to lack of lighting, alcohol issues, no safety barriers and a lack of stewards."
He said talks were ongoing with the council and another organiser with a view to staging the event.