Remembrance parade almost cancelled after Kent Police fail to show
THE Remembrance Sunday parade in Sevenoaks was almost cancelled an hour before 11am after Kent Police failed to turn up to close the roads.
Red tape has been blamed for the foul-up, with the county's top cop Chief Const Adrian Learmonth firmly in the firing line.
But the force has hit back, claiming it was never asked to police the event at the Vine.
Organiser Sevenoaks Town Council believed officers would man the closures of Dartford and St Botolph's roads.
But as 10am approached and with no officers on the scene, it became clear something had gone wrong.
Town council chief executive Linda Larter said: "We were expecting, as in previous years, to have police officers around to safely shut the roads.
"This year we realised at 9.50am they weren't going to do it.
"It made it more difficult for us because we didn't have a lot of staff there and they had to be deployed to do it."
Council staff quickly sprang into action, donning high visibility jackets, closing the roads and redirecting traffic.
"I'm not saying it was easy, but the general public wouldn't have noticed anything," said Mrs Larter.
"It would have been easier if the police had done what we expected them to do."
The breakdown in communication appears to have stemmed from the police's original refusal to provide support to the county's Remembrance parades earlier this year.
As previously reported by the Chronicle, Kent Police along with other forces has been criticised for refusing to provide a visible presence at public events.
Mrs Larter said: "They originally said they wouldn't provide any police presence, but I think they were lobbied by some politicians and other councils.
"Then they said to us they would provide policing as normal as per previous years."
This is backed up by an e-mail seen by the Chronicle, circulated to Kent county councillors in October.
This contained direct confirmation from Chief Const Learmonth that parades would be policed after all.
Chief Const Learmonth wrote: "Following a number of recent enquiries to my office, I would like to advise all officers and staff that Remembrance Day parades will be policed in local communities and to our usual high standard."
But Mrs Larter said what was not made clear was the town council was expected to have resubmitted its original plans for the event to guarantee a police presence.
However, Kent Police Chief Insp Peter Steenhuis has offered a different explanation.
He said: "Due to a misunderstanding the council cancelled their marshals, believing that police officers would attend to close roads, which was not the case as no request for assistance was received.
"The council had previously submitted a detailed plan for the event, showing how the event would be run without police attendance, which was approved by all organisations involved."
The Chronicle asked if the force would be providing a physical presence at the switching on of the Christmas lights later this month, but did not receive a response to this question.