Clitheroe bonfire protesters force safety rethink
A PROTEST march by scores of people through the centre of Clitheroe last night has forced a review of the cancellation of the town’s annual bonfire.
Carrying banners and placards, and chanting, “save our bonfire”, 70 men, women and children gathered at Clitheroe Castle before travelling en masse to the town hall in time for the full Ribble Valley council meeting.
The aim of the protest was to remove the Event Safety Advisory Group (ESAG), which the group claims has placed ‘unreasonable demands’ on the event’s organisers, leading them to quit.
Bonfire committee chairman Richard Dugdale addressed the councillors. He said: “We felt we could no longer work with a group that was working against us.”
He refuted ESAG claims that several health and safety iss-ues occured at last years event, and said the bonfire committee were being “bullied”.
Campaigner Lucy Hatherell said she didn’t think ESAG was fit for purpose.
She told councillors: “ESAG’s role is to advise and support event organisers but it seems they are intent on stopping events happening.”
She pointed out that ESAG did not produce minutes for the public from meetings, and it was not clear who sat on the board.
Leader of the opposition, Coun Allan Knox, said that community bonfires were “by far and away the safest way of marking November 5”.
He said: “After an event organisers may be tired, but they should never be saying “I’m never going to do that again” because of ESAG.
“Surely it is the role of this council to be advising, and assisting in a constructive helpful and timely manner — not being the organisation that is, rightly or wrongly, seen to be the villain of the piece.”
He said: “It is important to remember that ESAG is an advisory body — not a statutory one.
“Therefore at no time should it be dictating people what they should or should not do. The only people who can do that are those who have statutory powers.”
A motion calling on the council’s chief executive, along with councillors from all parties to review ESAG’s policies, constitution and procedures was passed unanimously by full council.