Tue, 23 Aug 2016
Newbury’s largest fireworks display has been called off after charity organisers said they could not afford to pay for enhanced traffic management measures following last year’s problems.
The Lions Club of Newbury has held its popular November fireworks display at Newbury Racecours for the past 35 years and has raised in excess of £250,000 for charity as a result.
Last year, many thousands attended the event on November 7 for a night which organisers said enjoyed record attendance.
However, there was a series of traffic problems for revellers leaving the site, with some cars left abandoned and queues of cars taking hours to leave.
The Lions Club confirmed this week that it would be against its duty of care to spend so much money on traffic management as the racecourse was asking it to do.
A spokesperson for the Lions Club said: “We very much regret having to take this decision, but we have been unable to agree suitable terms with Newbury Racecourse.
“Over the years, we have had magnificent support from the racecourse and we couldn’t have raised so much money, for aiding some of the most vulnerable people in the Newbury area, without their help.
“Increased restrictions for health and safety and other concerns are understandable, given the property development happening at the racecourse.
“As a registered charity, we have a duty of care and the trustees feel unable to use money, given to Newbury Lions to help local people, to pay upfront costs, when the success of the event depends so much on the weather.
“We have been working closely with the racecourse to try to find a workable solution but, regretfully, we have decided not to hold the event this year. We are, however, looking to hold a fireworks event in 2017.”
In response, Newbury Racecourse said in a statement: “Over the past two or three years, the residential development at New-bury Racecourse has changed the nature and layout of the site and, as a result, when popular events are staged here, appropriate traffic management and car park control have become more important than ever.
“With a large crowd expected at events such as the fireworks display, there is clearly a need to get people to and from the site and into and out of the car parks in a reasonable amount of time, with appropriate consideration for residents.
“In 2015, our operations and events teams discussed this issue with the organisers, and passed on a traffic plan, which the Lions Club decided to operate with volunteers in order to save costs.
“In the event, the popularity of the event and the number of people choosing to arrive by car exceeded the experience of the volunteers managing the situation, which resulted in extremely long queues of traffic, exacerbated by many people abandoning their vehicles in inappropriate places, in order to make sure that they did not miss the firework display.
“The majority of people attending this event assume that it is organised by the racecourse in aid of the Lions Club and, as a result of the problems on the night, we had a high volume of complaints after the event.
“On that basis, when we discussed the 2016 firework display with the Lions Club, our operations team insisted that a professional traffic management company be employed to ensure that the issues experienced in 2015 would not be repeated.
“We arranged for the Lions Club to use our retained professional parking and traffic management contractors, CSP, and to pass on the cost of that to the Lions Club, with no profit to the racecourse.
“Our understanding is that this cost was considered too high, which has ultimately resulted in the Lions Club deciding not to hold the fireworks event at Newbury Racecourse in 2016.”
The Lions Club said that it hoped for a 2017 relaunch provided it was “able to secure a venue and sufficient sponsorship” in time for next year.