Events are at risk as police stop manning road closures
EVENTS at the heart of Tunbridge Wells's communities are in jeopardy because police have refused to control road closures.
Organisers of carnivals, parades and processions, faced with the costs of buying road signs and barriers and finding scores of volunteers to stand along the closed route, have been forced to axe events.
Kent Police stopped providing officers at the beginning of the year but its effects are being felt as the town's calendar of events unfolds.
The police told the Courier it followed changes to national police standards of responsibility at public events.
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Sergeant Peter Gilmore said: "Safety at public events rests with the organiser, who have civil, common and criminal law responsibilities and who may be liable for consequences if things go wrong. This involves the safety of the public, avoiding damages to property, fear or alarm to the public, and disruption to the community."
Kent Police said it would support organisers in their planning of events and if police were requested, charges would be agreed.
The Scouts' St George's Day parade in March was cancelled, as was the Sherwood Carnival on June 2. The Battle of Britain parade will not go ahead in September and organisers of the Rusthall torchlight procession in November are currently grappling with the requirements of the road closure, which are "threatening" the event.
Three of the four events have been held in Tunbridge Wells for decades and organisers told the Courier parading in public was a crucial way groups kept up their profile. It also helped with fundraising and encouraging new members.
Richard Benoy, member of the Rusthall Bonfire and Fete Committee, said: "I understand there is the facility to pay the police to do the job but a cost of £2,500 to £3,000 is prohibitive. I presume for the police it is cost cutting and their hands are tied. But this could threaten our event."
Sgt Gilmore added: "Falling into line with national police standards of responsibility at public events, police officers will no longer be provided to organisers to control traffic within road closures for events.
"It is recognised, however, that events such as carnivals, are of great importance to the communities. Kent Police will support organisers in the planning of such events, in conjunction with the Safety Advisory Group and highways authority."
He said: "Kent Police will have responsibility for preventing breaches of criminal or common law and taking action against anyone who breaks the criminal law. Attendance by Kent Police at a public event will be assessed on the requirement to prevent and detect crime and prevent breaches of the peace, in line with the Association of Chief Police Officers guidance, ensuring any action taken is lawful and proportionate to the circumstances.
"Where an organiser requests police attendance, charges will be agreed taking into account the resources requested and the nature of the event."