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

Memorandum by The Showmen's Guild of Great Britain, Lancashire, Cheshire & North Wales Section (TF 19)

1.   The continued value of historic travelling fairs

  Historic travelling fairs are important to the livelihood of Showmen and must be taken into consideration when redevelopment is planned. They are part of the English heritage and objections to their being moved out of towns, must be made most strongly, as such moves would be a danger to our community and way of life if sites cease to exist.

2.   Provision of sites for travelling fairs

  Where fairs are held annually in parks and recreation grounds and the ground is lost for one reason or another, we need to be involved from day one so as to have input into changes. We have had problems with the following local authorities—Bolton MBC which involved a Court case which the Section won, as we proved that we had spent money on the site. Bury MBC where we had a ground which we understood was to be the permanent site for our Charter Fairs and into which we invested a lot of money, and which Bury MBC sold in 1999. After much work and many protests by local shop-keepers etc, we have been given a site in the Town Centre but this is now only on the basis that either side can give three months notice, before the fair is due to be held, cancelling the fair. We obtained legal advice on this matter. Problems have arisen in Preston where it would appear that there is some resistance to Fairs. It would appear that some Boroughs are trying to price fairs out by raising rents by considerable amounts, without giving a Lessee chance to negotiate, also that Officers of some local authorities are anti fairs.

3.   Needs of travelling showpeople in carrying out their trade

  Showpeople need a "home" base where they can maintain and repair equipment in order to comply with Health and Safety requirements.

4.   Effectiveness of existing planning guidance

  A large number of our members have had problems with regard to obtaining permanent residential sites. Such sites are needed in order that our members can carry out their business, ie maintenance and repair of vehicles, also a base for children of school age. It would appear that every time a Showman submits planning application that every Tom, Dick and Harry objects on the flimsiest of grounds. Indeed several of the sites proposed by Showmen have been scrap yards, so it would seem that if planning permission were given, the sites would only be improved. In effect it seems that Planning Guidance Circular 22/91 is not sufficiently strong, and consultation with legal consultants who are familiar with dealing with Showmen's appeals regarding sites need to take place. Such discussion will give detailed information of the parts of the Circular which are not working. This Circular needs to be strengthened considerably.

5.   Whether action is necessary to ensure that appropriate regard is had to the needs of travelling showpeople within the planning system

  All local authorities/elected Council members, should be informed of the special needs of travelling Showmen within a planning system. Indications at the present time are that Showmen are content to put up with substandard sites as we are not part of "their community."

J Collins

February 2000

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