Clitheroe Commmunity Bonfire unlikely to go-ahead

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IT is extremely unlikely that Clitheroe Community Bonfire will go-ahead this November following a “breakdown in trust” between its organisers and the local authorities.

The popular annual event, which is organised by the Rotary Clubs of Ribblesdale, Clitheroe and Pendle View, Clitheroe Round Table and Clitheroe Lions, was due to be staged as usual on Clitheroe Castle field on Saturday November 3rd.

However, on Friday the chairman and vice-chairman of the bonfire committee, Rotarians Richard Dugdale and Bill Barker, both resigned from their positions following what Mr Dugdale described as “a breakdown in trust with the Events Safety and Advisory Group (ESAG)”.

ESAG is made up of representatives from Ribble Valley Borough Council, Lancashire Constabulary, Lancashire Highways Authority, Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service and Lancashire Ambulance Service.

“It’s an absolute travesty that such a good event like this has been knocked on the head,” said Mr Dugdale. “We should be working together as a team, but it has become so that we are not doing that.”

Speaking on behalf of the bonfire committee, Mr Dugdale and Mr Barker, added that the event had to be cancelled due to the “over zealous activities of the authorities”.

“The bonfire has run in its present form for the past 15 years, during that time it has entertained tens of thousands of Ribble Valley families in a safe and friendly environment, also raising over £100,000 for charities in the area, including Lancashire Air Ambulance, Life Education Centres Lancashire, The Ribble Valley MS Society, and many many more.

“Following last year’s event, with record attendance which did not create any undue problems, the committee had put in place measures to cope with a larger crowd in future and put on a safe event yet again. These measures were made known to Ribble Valley Borough Council as the committee had been in contact with them since January to agree the details.

“Sadly, the Ribble Valley Event Safety Advisory Group (ESAG) became involved, as usual at the 11th hour, and made totally unreasonable demands upon us to continue with what as been a great Guy Fawkes Bonfire and Firework display for so many years.”

They added: “The decision to end the bonfire has not been made lightly. It was a leading social event in the Ribble Valley calendar. However, the committee has been forced into this position by what we feel is the unreasonable interference of the authorities.

“During the life of the bonfire the committee feel that it has been a safe and trouble-free event due to the good management and conscientious attention to detail of the committee.”

Speaking about the matter this week, Ribble Valley Borough Council chief executive Marshal Scott said: “ESAG has been helping organisers plan this year’s bonfire in the event of large crowds attending again. Last week, I attended a meeting of the bonfire’s organising committee and pledged council support for the event, assistance with temporary road closures and traffic management, and offered financial support.

“It is therefore regrettable that the organisers feel unable to go ahead with the event, but even at this late stage if they choose to proceed the council is willing to help them plan for a safe and enjoyable bonfire.”

Insp. Graham Lister, of Lancashire Constabulary, added: “It is an event that I have attended and always enjoyed, and from my point of view, it would be a real shame if it did not go ahead this year.”

He said the police’s role was to provide support and assistance to the event’s organisers and that would be available to anyone who stepped into the breach and took over the organisation of the bonfire.

Ribble Valley Borough Councillor Ken Hind, who acted as a steward at last year’s bonfire, said attempts would be made to save the event following a meeting held on Monday night. He explained that staging one main event is far safer and helps to prevent a proliferation of smaller bonfires.

He said: “As a community we are poorer as a consequence of this.”