Lowestoft Carnival blow as parade is put on hold

THE annual Lowestoft carnival parade will not take place this summer, The Journal can today reveal.

Organisers have this week 'reluctantly decided' to put their plans for the popular parade on hold for a year while they attempt to sort out mounting difficulties in staging the event.

Rising costs and changes to the traffic management rules governing street processions have forced The Friends of Lowestoft Hospital to come to their decision – depriving them of a vital source of funds.

Since going public with their concerns about the viability of this year's parade two months ago, organisers have been busy checking out possible alternative routes, but have now admitted defeat.

Carnival chairman Pat Rayner told The Journal: 'We have thoroughly investigated the idea of an 'off-road' parade taking a route along the town's south seafront – but as this would by necessity exclude large lorry floats we ruled it out as not coming up to our expectations for a traditional procession.

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'We have had negligible support for a seafront parade, so we decided to reject the idea.'

She said that further information about the 'community fund' offered by Waveney District Council leader Mark Bee to help the parade financially 'has been unclear', so this has not helped to solve the situation.

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'We also received a suggestion from the Lowestoft Town Management Partnership to take the parade through London Road North, but after due consideration, this option also had to be declined,' Mrs Rayner said.

'The uncertainty has been giving us all sleepless nights, so The Friends committee met recently to make a final decision – which was not to organise a parade this year but to start planning now for 2012. We are all keen carnival enthusiasts and make the decision with a heavy heart and trust that our many supporters will understand.'

The decision to cancel this year's parade is the latest blow to the carnival after last year's problems when last-minute difficulties over road closures meant the procession was unable to cross the bascule bridge. Organisers had to cut it short – preventing floats parading in the north of the town.

Two months ago, Mrs Rayner voiced concerns for this year's parade saying 'we are totally exasperated by the obstacles that we now have to overcome just to organise a fun procession for the community'.

For it to continue on its regular route, the committee had to apply to Suffolk County Council for a temporary traffic road closure order which costs �770 plus VAT, she said. They also needed to employ a contractor to stop traffic because Suffolk police said they could no longer fulfil this role.

Last year, despite its shortened route, the parade collection raised �3247 for The Friends, with all the money going to Lowestoft hospital to help improve facilities for patients.

Looking ahead to 2012, when the regular August date for the parade will clash with the Olympic Games in London, the carnival faces the additional problem of having too few police officers and trained first aidiers available, so the organising committee has suggested holding a procession on a Sunday in June instead.

It is hoped that by then that all the rules and regulations for carnival parades in Suffolk will be much clearer, and also that full details of any financial or practical help available will be known.

The annual Carnival Fete will still go ahead this year. It will take place on Royal Green on Sunday, August 7 and feature a host of arena events together with static displays, amusements and stalls.

Yesterday, the Lowestoft Town Management Partnership confirmed it had approached the carnival committee with an offer of an alternative route.

Emma King, Lowestoft town centre manager, said: 'LTMP and all the retailers will support the carnival to come through the town centre, and we will do all we can to be involved in it as it's vitally important that the carnival remains - it needs to happen.

'I want to work with the carnival committee and support them,' Mrs King added.

The Friends of Lowestoft Hospital invite comments and offers of help by e-mail to info@lowestoftcarnival.co.uk, via Facebook or by letter to 178 Carlton Road, Lowestoft, NR33 0ND.

• What do you think? Will the annual carnival parade be missed? Write to us at Postbox, The Journal, 147, London Road North, Lowestoft NR32 1NB or email: max.bennett@archant.co.uk

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