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

Memorandum by Cattons Fun Fairs (Amusement Caterers) (TF 09)


  My fun fair—small and traditional—visits the same villages that my family have attended for over 50 years. Many of these East Anglian villages ask me to return every year, sometimes twice a year. Being in a tourist ripe area, the sight of my fair on a traditional village green surrounded by thatched cottages, is a real eye catcher and an asset to the local shops who gain in trade. Whether the same can be said for the larger, modern fairs I do not know, but the majority of them still attend the towns on the original feast or charter days. With the ever increasing new technology, tradition is easily forgotten but it should not be allowed to fall into peoples' memories but be a part of the present day.


  I do not believe that a site has ever been provided by a council for showmen to stay on during the winter months. There are sites available for members of the Showmans Guild of Great Britain, but we are not all members of that organisation. Many of us have purchased or rent yards for which there is no planning permission nor ever likely to be. It is unfortunate that most councils will not grant permission for a site unless a great battle takes place and much expense incurred. I believe that sites should be considered with more sympathy especially if they are well hidden, quiet and the neighbours can vouch that life has not changed dramatically since the arrival of the showman's family. Perhaps a showman could live on a site for one winter period and if there has been no problem, full permission granted. Most objections happen because local residents are frightened by the unknown and judge us before they meet us; after all bad people can live in houses too.


  Showmen are quite self sufficient but obviously need all domestic services. Once a showman finishes his season and his loads returned to the yard, it is unusual for those loads to move anymore until the spring. There may be need to have a wider gateway for access but this can be made attractive to the eye.

  Consideration should be given that our employment is with us and some maintenance is necessary. This does not happen 24 hours a day, seven days a week and restriction could be put on this in the granting of planning permission. However, every household makes some noise and cooperation between neighbours is not unheard of.

  Families need to be near health services, schools and shops the same as everyone else, but we do not like to be on top of them nor in the middle of housing estates. Showmen like to be out of the way and left alone—given the chance—which is why most yards are in rural areas. Obviously a wise showman would choose somewhere that is not in a prominent position and hopefully well screened but time must be allowed for new screening planted to mature.


  Planning guidance is not easily obtainable from local councils and if a showman is lucky enough to get the literature then if they are somewhere they shouldn't be then the planners know where they are. Planners do not want to advise willingly and are only to keen to issue enforcement orders. A showman will normally keep the same yard for generations and if a new place needs to be found then land is purchased without planning permission. It is unlikely the family has anywhere else to go and will need to pull on the plot immediately. This is always frowned upon, as planning permission has to be sought in retrospect.


  Some showmen, like myself, rent land and stay there with the knowledge of most of the village for many years. It is only when permission is applied for and perhaps people from the other end of a village have a say in the planning process then the trouble starts. Permission is usually refused and the place that the showman has called home for a long time is no longer home. This is why a showman ought to be able to live on a piece of land with the councils' knowledge and, if there have been no objections from the near neighbours, then surely the council would have little reason to reject permission. The showman should be given the chance to become a member of the community to expel the automatic prejudice that exists in a lot of people's minds. None of us like to be overcrowded but showmen normally like their offspring around them, permission should not be for unlimited habitation. Perhaps two or three unit's maximum.

  Showmen should not be regarded the same as gypsies, new age travellers, hippies or as all criminals. We are clean, tidy business people who should be treated equally as any resident in the United Kingdom.

  Sites should not be detrimental to the environment but the meaning of the word detrimental needs to be clearly defined.

  Restrictions should be allowed on planning permission to prevent the sale of yards to anyone other than a showman to prevent gypsy or new age camps being put on those sites.

  There must be room and time for discussion between the planners and showmen and all to often this results in eviction of the family either to another piece of land or the offer of a council house from which an age old occupation cannot be followed. We all own our own living wagons/caravans—we just want somewhere to put them. We are single story and with the right screening people would not even know we were there.

  Your consideration of my opinions would be appreciated.

Mrs Janet Catton

February 2000

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