Houghton Regis fun fair did not break Covid restrictions, despite fury from residents and local councillor

Bedfordshire Police attended the site on Sunday and did not find any Covid breaches

By Reporter
Tuesday, 18th May 2021, 4:38 pm

A fun fair visiting Houghton Regis did not break Covid restrictions at the weekend, despite concerns raised by residents and a local councillor.

Tom Smiths Fun Fair opened on The Green, in Houghton Regis, on Friday, May 14, and is open daily until Sunday, May 23.

On Sunday, May 16, police received reports that large numbers of people were gathering at the fun fair, but organisers say they worked with Houghton Regis Town Council and Bedfordshire Police to ensure it operated in line with Government guidelines.

The photo has been used for illustration purposes

But Cllr Pat Hamill, who represents Tithe Farm and stood as a candidate in this month's Beds Police and Commissioner elections, said: "When it was set up we were surprised to see that they had a larger area than normal, when I spoke to the Town Clerk at Houghton Regis Town Council about it, they said it was because the rides would be spaced out and there would be more room to socially distance.

"Residents were unhappy about the whole green being cornered off. We had residents knocking our door, unhappy with what was going on, I looked and it was heaving.

"There were queues but it didn't seem like they were checking how many people were going in. This has to be looked at, with Covid-19 still about and the Indian variant, the council should be doing more to protect residents."

Cllr Hamill claimed: "There were hardly any masks being worn by people and hardly any socially distancing. A family member went and they told me there were over 1,000 people there, although I was told the limit would be 200.

"I did contact the police, as there was also dangerous driving going on by people trying to go to the fair, who were just parking wherever they wanted.

"I was disappointed by the whole situation, and knowing how bad parking is in Houghton Regis, the council should have something to control it better.

"That fair should have been the same size that it normally is, the more room it had, just meant that it was able to bring more rides. It's not fair on the residents that live nearby.

"Houghton Regis cannot cope with these types of events, and the town council should take that into consideration when booking them,

"Our population is going to double over the next 10 years and the council needs to put in the infrastructure, because at the moment the town cannot cope.

"The fair should have been checking the number of people, they could have done more.

"The fair is great for people, and when I was young I used to love it, but why should residents suffer when the fair comes to town.

"I have spoken to the town clerk and the council is trying to rectify what happened. It highlights that the fact that events like this need to be more scrutinised during the pandemic.

"The town carnival is heavily marshalled for example, so I was surprised by what happened at the weekend."

Tom Smiths Fun Fair say it worked with local authorities to ensure it opened safely and followed Covid guidelines.

Martin Draper, from Tom Smiths Fun Fair, said: "We carried out Covid-19 risk assessments and we worked with the local authorities and followed all the guidelines.

"We were not overcrowded, I saw online people saying about the queue outside, that's because we capped the number and we did have to stop people coming in, to control the numbers.

"We are a local business and we need to open, just like many other businesses, we have been shut for such a long time and we have not been able to do alternative things, like take-aways.

"Our workers need to work and I don't think people criticising online should affect us as a business in this negative way.

"We followed everything we could and we had everything in place that we could, as a business we have got to follow the guidelines or we would not have been allowed to open.

"We have got to follow the guidelines that are there, that is the only way we, as a business, can carry on running.

"There was a parking issue, but there often is, it's a busy area, there's lots of cars parked there now, and we are not even open."

Houghton Regis Town Council completed checks - including Covid compliance - before the fair arrived, and additional safety measures were put in place to prove a covid secure environment. The council says the police did not find any covid breaches on Sunday.

A spokesperson for Houghton Regis Town Council said: "As I am sure you are aware the fair visit Houghton Regis twice a year, usually in May and October. Prior to their visit the council complete due diligence checks including checking on insurance, safety processes and event management plans.

"For this visit these checks were extended to cover Covid compliance.

"In accordance with the governments road map the fair are permitted to operate at this time.

"Obviously additional safety measures are required to be put in place to provide a covid secure environment.

"These additional measures include barriers round the site to control the number of attendees, additional equipment cleaning, hand sanitisation, and social distancing.

"It is understood that the police attended the site on Sunday and did not find any Covid breaches.

"In light of some of the issues faced by residents, largely around parking, some additional measures are being put in place, including additional police patrols on Saturday and Sunday next weekend, additional fencing around the site, and no event parking signage.

"Social media posts will also be made to encourage people to walk to the fair and, if they need to drive, to park considerately for local residents."

Officers from Bedfordshire Police were called to the funfair on Sunday, May 16, and worked with organisers to ensure capacity was reduced.

Chief Inspector Jamie Langwith said: “We were made aware of a fun fair was taking place in Houghton Regis over the weekend and liaised with the Town Council to ensure the event had been organised within the relevant Covid guidelines.

“On Sunday (16 May), we received reports that large numbers of people were gathering at the fun fair. Our officers attended to help monitor the numbers and worked with the organisers to ensure capacity was reduced.

“Officers continued to patrol the area throughout the evening, and will continue to do so whilst the fair is running.

“Although restrictions have eased again, Covid infection rates still remain high in some parts of Bedfordshire, so we are encouraging people not to become complacent and risk undermining what we’ve achieved so far.”

Have you visited the fun fair or live in the area? What's your opinion? Email [email protected]