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

Memorandum by the World's Fair Limited (TF 24)


  The recent millenium funfair on the Mall in London was a great advertisement for what the fairground industry has to offer and attracted nearly two million visitors in four days. It demonstrated that the appeal of such entertainment is widespread and enjoyed by many different age and social groups. The organisers, Big Time Events, were most professional.

  The highlighted quote in Appendix A* illustrates that by the fair occupying the large crowds in London at the time, public order offences were substantially reduced. Many of the events that took place to celebrate the millennium, and indeed those that are held for any other large scale celebrations, often cost local authorities money. Funfairs actually earn local authorities income in the form of rent. The article that constitutes Appendix B* demonstrates how such events can be embraced by local authorities.

  While some individuals may still hold a jaded image of fair, it has to be understood that the people behind them can only invest in new attractions and facilities if they are earning the money to pay for it. As a result, it is only natural that high profile events such as those mentioned will attract the best equipment.


  Obviously not all events share the kudos of that on the Mall. At one time a large proportion of fairs were held in prime town centre locations and have, as those town centres expanded, been forced to the outskirts of town. In the centre of town, everyone can get to the fair, if it is in one corner of the town, then it is only easily accessible to the local population. A bus journey across town will inevitably discourage some from attending. It would obviously be easiest to get there by car, depriving those without cars, usually low-income households, of visiting the fair. To suggest that a site which is only used perhaps once a year for a fair should be saved exclusively for that use when it could be sold to a developer would be unrealistic. However, fairs are an accessible form of entertainment for many people, particularly the young who often "hang about" on the street. Perhaps more thought should be put into the siting of fairs by some local authorities. Appendix C* gives a brief overview of fairs and their heritage.

  One of the busiest fairs in the world, is that at the Munich Oktoberfest in Germany. The site for this event is huge, and is preserved for the fair's use. The same is the case in several other German towns and cities and often the facilities provided are very good (see point 3).


  Showpeople are largely self-sufficient and travel their own living accommodation, livelihood (the rides and attractions) from town to town. They also supply their own power for the rides and their own living quarters via the use of generators. Perhaps the only resource they will need to make use of when arriving at a place is a water supply.

  To refer to my first hand experience of the continental fairground industry, I have observed that fairground sites often have power supplies, water and many other facilities exclusively for the showpeople's use. It seems only reasonable when showpeople pay to use the site. One would not expect to pay rates in a house without receiving any services in return. Although special consideration is made to the local environment as regards noise pollution etc, many town and city centres fairs in this country still require generators (albeit "silent" ones).


Whether any action is needed to ensure that appropriate regard is had to the needs of travelling showpeople within the planning system

  Although local authorities have an obligation to provide sites for travelling showpeople, some are clearly not fully aware of them or wish not to comply (see highlighted section of Appendix D*). Again, land can often be at a premium, but the current provision of winter quarters is not adequate as I have on several occasions witnessed "overflowing" sites with loads being parked on the street outside.

  There have been some positive cases recently (see Appendix D*) in the granting of new sites. However, to turn a piece of land into a showmen's yard requires a lot less work than building a new housing estate, so the amount of effort required in obtaining planning permission for use as a yard seems unjustified.

  *Evidence not printed. All appendices are sourced from the World's Fair newspaper.

Owen Ralph
Journalist, World's Fair

February 2000

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