IN THE Westmorland Gazette’s online report 'Horse Fair needs to pay its way, say Conservatives’, regarding the cost to the public of managing Appleby Fair, Cllr Airey and PCC McCall make some valid points, but it is a complicated situation, with no easy solutions, and I would like to provide some context.

Additional police resources were deployed in 2019 in response to complaints from the people of Kirkby Stephen, who made it clear that they did not want horses in their town in the build up to Appleby Fair.

Cumbria Police responded proportionately, and delivered exactly what Kirkby Stephen asked for, although in my opinion they could have been more flexible towards people who just wanted to rest their weary horses for a few minutes and buy some groceries.

As a result, the police occasionally outnumbered the visitors and there have been complaints from some businesses which lost trade and from horse-drawn

visitors who were moved on, but police can hardly be blamed for doing what the town asked for so clearly.

It is interesting to note the significant increase in police resources resulted in fewer calls for service, the same number of arrests, and an increase in the number of crimes reported.

Contrary to the reporting from some national newspapers, the public clean-up costs for Appleby Fair are remarkably low when viewed objectively, and it is not unusual for street cleaning at public events to be paid for out of public funds. Appleby stall-holders and campers on licensed sites pay an entrance fee, which covers the whole cost of clean up on those sites.

Fair Hill and the Market Fields are cleaned within 48 hours, at no cost whatever to the public. For street cleaning, the most recent figures (2017-2018) show that Eden District Council spent £17,000 on street cleaning in the towns and on the ‘transit sites’ during Fair week.

The street cleaning is quick, efficient and thorough. The best estimate of the number of people attending the Fair is about 40,000, which works out as a cost for street cleaning of 42p per visitor.

By comparison, another popular holiday and visitor destination in this region, Blackpool, spends £18 million pounds on street cleaning in a year, and has about 18 million visitors annually. This works out at £1 per visitor – more than twice the cost, per visitor, of cleaning up after Appleby Fair. As far as I know, no-one,(not even the Conservatives!) are calling for an admission charge to Blackpool City Centre to cover the cost of cleaning the streets, or the cost of the police, who recorded 3,076 crimes in Blackpool city centre in the last 12 months.

Visitors to Appleby Fair are only half as mucky as visitors to Blackpool, and although the idea of charging day-visitors to the Fair may seem like good sense, no-one has yet found a way to do it.

Street cleaning and policing costs in Blackpool and at Appleby are paid for out of the public purse because the visitors make a significant contribution to the local economy. All the shops, cafes, pubs, (if they choose to open) petrol stations, taxis, buses, trains, and service providers (e.g. Portaloo, road barriers, etc.) benefit from significant revenue from the Fair.

Accommodation is fully booked up for a radius of at least 20 miles around Appleby, including hotels, guest houses, lodges, bed and breakfast, campsites and many farmers’ fields. That revenue provides employment and wages, both subject to taxation, and any profit is also liable to income tax.

All the people who benefit locally pay council tax locally and spend their money locally. All these taxes help to offset the public cost of the fair, but they are seldom mentioned.

It is understandable that people who receive no benefit from the Fair will complain about the cost, but that is not unlike complaining about the cost of the council-funded leisure centre because they do not use it.

No-one can deny that there are problems associated with the fair, particularly sanitation and antisocial behaviour. Although undoubtedly offensive, such antisocial behaviour is a national problem, not exclusive to Appleby Fair. Cumbria Police have stated that the problems of crime and disorder at Appleby are not out of proportion to other large public events and confirmed that although the Fair is one of the largest events in their calendar, it is one of the least troublesome.

Elected representatives, including Cllrs Airey, Dew and Greenwood, with PCC McCall, have been successful this year in bringing about the improvements demanded by their constituents, and with good will on all sides that process can continue to address the remaining problems.

Bill Lloyd

Traveller Representative

Multi Agency Strategic Co-Ordinating Group (MASCG)