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

Memorandum by Bristol City Council (TF 43)

  Within towns and cities throughout the country, funfairs are a popular form of entertainment, and Bristol is no exception. The City Council is constantly under pressure from funfair operators to designate suitable sites to allow funfairs to operate.

  For Bristol, there is a sensitivity within the community concerning funfairs. This follows a number of most violent racial attacks, by fairground workers, on young black males at a funfair held within the city in March 1994. During these attacks a black youth suffered terrible head injuries from which he has never recovered. A small number of fairground workers involved in the incident were arrested and are currently serving sentence.

  The incident occurred on an area of common land known as the Downs. The land is owned and managed jointly by the City Council and the Society of Merchant Venturers. Since the early 1980's, the Downs had been established as a venue for funfairs. By 1993, a policy had been formulated which sought to balance the considerable income generating potential of funfairs and their popularity, with the need to minimise the environmental impact on the Downs.

  Since March 1994, any requests to hold funfairs on the Downs have not been approved. The City Council has had cause to reflect upon whether or not it should allow funfairs to take place within the city. Currently, there are five major sites within the city where funfairs are permitted.

  Following on from the incident on the Downs and as a result of public concerns about the environmental nuisance associated with funfairs, there has been a tightening of the licensing conditions the City Council imposes upon funfairs. The extra conditions include clauses which relate to:

    —  The setting of a minimum distance equipment will be allowed from residential properties (100 metres);

    —  A prohibition on the dismantling of equipment during unsociable hours;

    —  Restrictions being set as to the hours of operation;

    —  weekdays 1800 hours-2200 hours;

    —  weekends 1400 hours-2200 hours;

    —  A condition to adhere to restrictions on the emission of noise pollution;

    —  A requirement for regular litter clearance during the operation of the funfair;

    —  The need for a reinstatement bond;

    —  A need for certificates of insurance, and current mechanical certificates to be forwarded in advance of the fair arriving on site;

    —  A requirement for funfair workers to wear name badges on site at all times;

    —  A requirement for funfair workers to have had training in first aid and hold relevant and up to date certificates of training;

    —  A prohibition on catering concession being located close to residential properties, and;

    —  A requirement to notify the police of a fairs visit.

  As to whether fairs will be allowed on the Downs in future, this will rely on the healing of wounds within the community which was devastated by the incident in 1994.

  On a different issue, but again related to funfairs is the concept of "Showman's Rights". This is a form of collusion between many funfair operators which allows them the right to expect to return to a site if they have operated from that site for two years or more. This "right" can obstruct a local authority's efforts to get the best out of fairground opportunities. Perhaps the committee could consider whether the continuing observation of showman's rights by fairground operators is appropriate to modern conditions.

Michael Branaghan

Head of Parks and Heritage Estates

February 2000

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