Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 100 - 115)



  100. Is showmen's quarters one of those issues?
  (Councillor Stacey) No, it is not one of those issues but we will make sure that the Showmen's Guild are consulted on it.
  (Mr Russell) When we launched the project and asked people to comment on whether or not the issues we had first drawn up were okay, we published 46 issues which we thought needed tackling in the process. It is interesting that none of them specifically showed the Showmen's Guild but one of the ones which was added in fairly late on in the process was the one of entertainment, culture, development of tourism in the region. Certainly one of the comments has been made already that the Showmen's Guild have an important part in that. I think it is something which is acknowledged as part of the process. It is worth remembering though the whole issue of subsidiarity in the planning process, and this issue that you should only deal at a certain planning level those issues which should properly be dealt with at that. I have no doubt that there is a regional dimension to the provision of winter quarters, they will be few and far between across the region. I do wonder whether it is a strategic issue because regional planning guidance at the end of the day is meant only to deal with those issues which need to be dealt with at a strategic level across the whole of the region.

  101. You see yesterday we had a fairly bitter complaint from some of the councillors and officials at Bromsgrove that the travelling quarters had always been next door in Redditch and they should stay there and they should not spill over into Bromsgrove. Then, of course, they were telling us how nice it was to have the fairs there on their green. Now it does seem to me that there is a logic that really winter quarters ought to be looked at across the region if the region is benefitting from the fairs and not just rely on the tradition that Redditch provides them for the surrounding authorities.
  (Mr Russell) Certainly in the promotion of entertainment, which as I have said, will be an issue within the consequent issue of winter quarters, that is something we will take on board.

  102. Do you think winter quarters could suitably go into green belt sites or not?
  (Mr Russell) Having approved the transfer of winter quarters in Coventry only in the last three weeks I happen to believe they can because I do happen to believe that in certain circumstances there are very special circumstances which overcome the other requirement of avoiding unavoidable harm in green belt can be justified on economic and other grounds, particularly if you look at the issues to do with reuse of buildings which are recommended in PPG2 and several of the others.

  103. That is looking at reuse of farm buildings?
  (Mr Russell) Yes, where it seems to me to be a fairly obvious location in certain circumstances, other than access and the possible accessibility to schools and other services where you can properly accommodate a mixed use of repairs, storage and residential.

  104. Since you have referred to the survey from Norwich, can you tell us that there will be a happy ending to the debates as to where that traditional fair is going to go? Can we look forward next year to it being as successful as it has been in previous years?
  (Ms Williams) I sincerely hope so. We had another meeting on Friday at Norwich City Council to look at a site for the Easter fair. They confirmed the same arrangements that we suggested for Christmas with an agreement with the Showmen's Guild that we will try it and then review. We are looking forward to a successful Easter fair for everyone concerned.

  105. Were the showmen happy with that site?
  (Ms Williams) It is the agreed best site within Norwich. They did want some additional space which were these shopping streets. Again the council said no but the showmen are going to try to fit all of their members into this local park, as I say, and then we are going to try to see how everything goes. There is certainly a will from everyone within Norwich, from the Council, the local retailers and everyone to try to make this a traditional Norwich fair in the spirit of the old ones.

  106. Thank you. What should local authorities do? What are the facilities that the showmen ought to provide and what ought the local authority provide in terms of a fair coming? Public toilets, are they the responsibility of the showmen or are they the responsibility of the local authority?
  (Councillor Stacey) I think where there are not the existing arrangements where there are new arrangements it is felt to be a partnership working.

  107. I understand it has to be a partnership working but I just want to know who does what?
  (Councillor Stacey) It depends what the issue is, perhaps of financial arrangements. If it is on an off street site that the council are receiving income for, you could argue out of that the council can provide the sanitary facilities, etc.. If it is an on street site, perhaps over Christmas or something, where the council has invited showmen in to generate business, again it depends I think on part of the whole financial package. It has to be beneficial. Obviously the showmen are there to make money. The council want the attractiveness of the area and what the particular arrangements are in any given location is a matter for local decision.

  108. I understand it is a matter for local decision but my experience is that sometimes the lease and everything is negotiated by someone from recreation or parks or one part of the council and then someone comes along from, I do not know what you call them in the local authority, public health section and says "We want this, that and the other" and the showmen are not really quite sure who they are dealing with, the person who issues the lease or the other requirements of the local authority. Now do you think those problems are solved?
  (Councillor Stacey) I would like to think they are but I suspect they are not. In joined up local government they ought to be solved and there ought to be a one stop shop for the showmen to deal with the council.

  109. Is that the case in Norwich?
  (Ms Williams) Certainly I would say they come to the section that I manage and we are the facilitator. Our bottom line in effect is that we want to recover our costs, no more, no less.

Mr Donohoe

  110. I always like to come away from one of these inquiries having done something. I am looking to you to do that today. I am told that the Health and Safety Executive do a one day seminar per annum to look specifically at some of the elements of the regulations that cover showgrounds. I am asking you as an organisation if you would consider today having a similar seminar one day a year in future to look specifically at showgrounds?
  (Councillor Stacey) We will certainly consider that. I cannot give an undertaking to say we will do that because there are resource implications and we have a vast batting list, not all of which get in any one year.

  111. You would support it?
  (Councillor Stacey) I will take the issue back to my colleagues.

  112. You would support it?
  (Councillor Stacey) I think it is a suggestion worthy of further consideration. I think it is a good idea. As I say, when we get into putting it up against the others we will see what happens.

  113. Sure.
  (Councillor Stacey) I think it is a good idea. There are obviously cross issues within authorities and we need to make sure authorities are handling the issues as joined up government.

  114. You were in the room when I asked the same questions of the Showmen's Guild so you know I am not being partisan.
  (Councillor Stacey) Absolutely.

  115. If the Showmen's Guild, who have already given evidence, take on board partly the cost of that you would be more likely to support it, would you?
  (Councillor Stacey) I think it would be a much more beneficial session done in partnership with the Showmen's Guild not just because of the issue of cost but some of their expertise and the issues involved. I hope if we do run a session they will be there telling us what some of the issues are for them and we will be telling them how it is for us.

  Mr Donohoe: Excellent.

  Chairman: On that note can I thank you very much for your evidence.

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