Safety group answers critics

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RIBBLE Valley’s Event Safety Advisory Group (ESAG) – the body at the centre of the storm over Clitheroe’s community bonfire, this week issued a statement setting out its role in what has happened.

Citing “potentially dangerous incidents” at last year’s event, the statement reads: “The Clitheroe bonfire has been held successfully for many years, attracting up to 4,000 spectators. But according to police estimates last year’s event attracted approximately 13,000 spectators, far more than envisaged.

“This led to potentially dangerous incidents, including:

• Three vehicles gridlocked on the Eshton Terrace railway crossing when the barriers came down. The barriers had to be lifted manually by police officers and the vehicles pushed away.

• A potential crush in the poorly lit Parson Lane tunnel, as thousands of people exited the site.

• Difficulties in the ambulance service responding to an emergency call on the castle field, due to traffic gridlock, the numbers of people on the field and poor communication between stewards.

• Unacceptable evacuation times, as thousands of people attempted to exit the site.

“Given the increased popularity of the event, it was important to have plans in place to ensure the safety of a large number of spectators. ESAG has repeatedly pledged support for the event, including assistance with temporary road closures and traffic management, financial support and additional police presence.

“Contrary to reports, the bonfire has not been cancelled and it is regrettable that the organisers have chosen not to proceed, despite an offer of assistance from ESAG and its partners.

“Should a suitable organiser come forward, even at this late stage, ESAG is willing to help them plan for a safe and enjoyable bonfire.”

• The Ribble Valley Event Safety and Advisory Group comprises officers from Lancashire County Council, Ribble Valley Borough Council, Lancashire Constabulary, Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service and the North West Ambulance Service.