HEAVY rain and rising water levels have resulted in ramp access to the River Eden being closed off at Appleby Horse Fair.

The fair's Multi-Agency Strategic Co-ordinating Group (MASCG) says the decision has been taken on safety grounds.

The river is usually well-used by Gypsies and Travellers throughout the fair - including for high-profile horse washing.

But the Appleby Horse Fair MASCG said it has had no choice but to close ramp access today following heavy rain last night and this morning.

MORE TOP STORIES:

 

The rivers levels in Appleby are monitored constantly throughout Appleby Horse Fair, and were found to have risen above 0.5 metres.

The MASCG is strongly advising people not to enter the water for the safety of themselves and their animals.

Announcing the decision this morning, it said it had been reached as a result of several factors - namely the depth of the water; the speed the water is travelling; how unclear the water is; the temperature of the water; and the condition of the river bed.

Matthew Neal, chairman of the MASCG and director of corporate Services at Eden District Council, said: "The top priority of every agency which sits as part of the MASCG is always public safety and the preservation of life.

"Any time any person or animal enters the river there is risk involved. However, now the river levels have risen above the 0.5m level, the different agencies have taken action to keep people and animals safe.

"We urge people to heed this warning and stay out of the River Eden on the advice of the MASCG agencies. This advice also applies to other access points within the Appleby area, including Jubilee Ford."

He added that river levels were under regular review and if they did fall back to a safer level, the MASCG might take the decision to reopen the access ramp.

However, with heavy rain set to continue all day, that is highly unlikely to occur today.

There is also the potential for the river levels to remain above 0.5m into Sunday.

The RSPCA is urging people to heed the advice and to not to take horses into the river as it is currently unsafe for people or animals.

Chief Inspector Rob Melloy said: "If anyone takes or attempts to take an animal into the water they may be committing an offence under the Animal Welfare Act.

"Action may be taken by ourselves alongside the police."