Red tape forces Lowestoft Carnival to go off-road
LOWESTOFT Carnival could be forced to abandon its traditional parade route and exclude large floats from its main procession as 'exasperated' organisers struggle with rising costs and a mountain of red tape, it emerged this week.
An increase in running costs and changes to the traffic management rules for street carnival parades have forced the Friends of Lowestoft Hospital - who organise the annual summer event - to rethink their plans for this year's procession.
After several meetings with Suffolk police and members of Waveney District Council's events team, the organising committee has reluctantly come up with the idea of an 'off-road' parade along the town's south seafront in an effort keep the event viable.
The move follows last year's problems when the procession was unable to cross the bascule bridge after last-minute problems over road closures forced organisers to cut it short - thereby preventing floats parading in the north of the town.
Carnival chairman Pat Rayner told the Journal: 'We are totally exasperated by the obstacles that we now have to overcome just to organise a fun procession for the community. If we wanted the parade to continue along the regular route we have to apply to Suffolk County Council, the lead authority for traffic management and public safety in our area, for a temporary traffic road closure order which costs �770 plus VAT.
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'But that is just the start of the extra costs that we as organisers would have to pick up. Suffolk police have made it clear to the committee that they have no powers in law to stop traffic for a pre-planned event such as our carnival so the committee would need to employ a contractor whose staff had been trained and accredited to carry out the traffic management role previously undertaken by the police.
The idea to re-route this year's parade comes after organisers were forced to shorten the route last year: for the first time in its history, the procession was not be able to cross the bridge or finish at the town's hospital, which it raises money for.
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The problems arose because the carnival parade did not have a Temporary Traffic Regulation Order (TTRO) necessary to close a trunk road, which takes about 16 weeks to obtain. Organisers said they were only made aware of the need to have an order for the procession to take place on a trunk road about a month before the event - giving them insufficient time to apply.
Following last summer's difficulties, organisers have weighed up their options: they say that to run a south-to-north procession along London Road South and through the town, 27 road junctions would have to be manned and say 'this would cost us in excess of �1000'.
A carnival committee spokesman told The Journal: 'But it doesn't even stop there, because the order also requires us to provide new road signs advertising the date of the road closure and to employ trained staff to put out no waiting cones.'
The spokesman said the committee was 'horrified' when it heard how much it would cost to organise a parade along the regular route.
'The view of committee members was that carnival entrants put in a lot of effort to make a spectacular parade which raises money for a very good cause, namely Lowestoft Hospital,' the spokesman said. 'Last year, along a shortened route, the collection raised �3247 and the committee did not want to pay a good chunk of the cash generously donated by spectators into collecting buckets - to pay council bureaucrats or indeed to a traffic management contractor, instead of benefiting hospital patients.'
To avoid these charges, an alternative 'off-road' route has been suggested for the event, which is planned for Sunday August 2011 7.
Mrs Rayner added: 'Waveney District Council has been extremely helpful in offering the south seafront for a predominantly walking parade – although a few cars, vans and pick-up trucks would also be allowed. Although we think this is a workable alternative we want to ensure that parade entrants will support this change of route idea.'
The suggestion is for the parade to assemble on the seafront alongside Kensington Gardens and then head along the seafront to Royal Green where a funday/fete would be in full swing - making a fitting climax to an afternoon. Unfortunately, says organisers, this route does not lend itself to large lorry floats to take part safely, although these have been noticeably fewer in past parades.
The carnival committee added: 'We understand that said the regulations affecting the carnival apply countywide and, if enforced uniformly, will affect many similar public events seeking road closures.'
The Friends of Lowestoft Hospital are inviting local people to comment on their plans. E-mail: email@example.com, or contact them by facebook or by letter to 178 Carlton Road, Lowestoft, NR33 0ND.
•What do you think? is it right that Lowestoft Carnival and other popular events face such huge running costs and charges for road closures? Write to: Postbox, The Journal, 147, London Road North, Lowestoft NR32 1NB or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org and be sure to include your name and address.
•The Hospital Friends are organising the Lowestoft Country Music Festival at Pontin's Holiday Centre in Pakefield, Lowestoft on Sunday, February 13. The event promises eight hours of entertainment, featuring Gary Perkins, Bob Brolly, C'est La Vie and Kevin Barry. Tickets costing �10 are available by calling 01986 873854 / 07903 137059 or from Pontin's in advance or at the door.