A bridge too far

Mark BoggisORGANISERS of Lowestoft Carnival have issued a rallying call to townsfolk to back this weekend's big parade - after the shock news that its traditional route has fallen victim to red tape.Mark Boggis

ORGANISERS of Lowestoft Carnival have issued a rallying call to townsfolk to back this weekend's big parade - after the shock news that its traditional route has fallen victim to red tape.

For the first time in the carnival's history, this Sunday's main procession will not be able to cross the bascule bridge or finish at the town's hospital, which it raises money for.

Instead, the parade will be forced to end at Parade Road North, near Notleys public house, and disperse on Royal Green - meaning it will not venture into the north of the town.

The problems arose as the carnival parade does not have a Temporary Traffic Regulation Order (TTRO) necessary to close a trunk road - such as the A12 - and which takes about 16 weeks to obtain.

Organisers claim that they were only told that they needed any special permission for the procession to take place on a trunk road a month ago, giving them insufficient time to apply for the licence.

However, after applying for a so-called 'Special Event road closure', they then ran into more red tape when the Highways Agency decided a TTRO was also required for the parade to take place on the A12.

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The Friends of Lowestoft Hospital, who have run the carnival for the past 42 years, were only informed of this extra requirement by the Highways Agency and police on Monday, and so instead of finalising plans for the procession, they reluctantly devised a shorter route to save the parade.

Members of the carnival committee are particularly frustrated as these regulations have been in place since 1994, but they have never been asked in the past 15 years of running the parade along the A12 to apply for a TTRO - although police admitted this week that an order 'should've been in place.'

With just two days to go until Sunday's parade, the Friends are hoping that the carnival spirit will shine through - and they are calling on people in Lowestoft to give it their support.

Friends' spokesman Mick Howes said: 'Despite problems with red tape affecting the parade route, we're hoping the the town will rally round and show that they still have the carnival spirit this weekend.'

The decision to change the route followed a crisis meeting with police last Sunday, where organisers raised concerns about safety, with the crowds in the south of town likely to swelled by those from north Lowestoft.

An attempt by Waveney MP Peter Aldous' to resolve the situation also proved fruitless.

A Highways Agency spokesman insisted 'it was only on July 21 that we learned that there was to be a closure of the A12 for the event', and since then 'strenuous efforts' had been made to find a solution.

A Suffolk police spokesman said: 'Police became aware of the issue at the end of last week when, in discussion with the organisers about policing for the event, and running through a new risk assessment with them, it became apparent that no application had been made by the organisers to have the A12 closed at the bascule bridge.

'Police have no powers in law to stop traffic for a pre-planned event such as this and without a TTRO neither does anyone else.

'This wasn't Suffolk police refusing to allow the road closure; it is just that if the carnival were to go ahead without the necessary legal backing, and something went wrong, then clearly the ramifications could be huge for the organisers, and officers clearly couldn't support an event which would effectively be doing something illegal.'

?What do you think about the situation surrounding the carnival parade? Send your views to Postbox, The Journal, London Road North, Lowestoft NR32 1NB or e-mail: max.bennett@archant.co.uk Please include your name and address