District council accused of stalling over decision on new home for historic fair

North Devon Council has been accused of ‘stalling’ over efforts to find a new site for Barnstaple Fair.

The district council says it is ‘working on a solution’ for the fair, which will need a new home in 2018 due to planned development at Seven Brethren.

But at a Barnstaple Town Council meeting last night (Monday), mayor Julie Hunt said the town council had been waiting for answers for more than a year.

She said the town council and Showmen’s Guild were being ‘left in limbo’.

And fellow councillor Sue Haywood accused the district of treating the town council ‘with contempt’.

“We have tried to liaise with North Devon Council on numerous occasions; surely out of common decency they should talk to the people who own the fair charter.

“Their only duty is to find us a new site under licence; we should set up our own meeting with the Showmen’s Guild and ask the district council to attend.”

Deputy mayor Ian Roome said: “These people want to know where they are going with their businesses; it’s about planning.

“We have a duty of care to the Showmen’s Guild; I know the district council has got options on the table – let’s discuss them.”

Cllr Steve Upcott said the town council and the Showmen’s Guild understood the site requirements and were best placed to advise the district council about a new site.

“We’ve been informed that 2017 will be the last time that the fair will be held at the Seven Brethren site – there will be no fair there in 2018 because of the development work there,” he said.

“This is a stalling tactic; we are not getting any help from the district council and should hold our own meeting to discuss what’s happening.”

Also speaking at the meeting, district and county councillor Brian Greenslade warned: “If we cannot resolve the issue of where the fair will be, some fair traders may no longer want to come to Barnstaple and I suspect it could whither on the vine.”

Town clerk Will Austin said the Showmen’s Guild would need at least a year to plan for a new site.

He said the town council has already identified Rock Park and Castle Green and North Walk as alternative options to Seven Brethren, with North Walk the preferred option.

This week, North Devon Council leader Des Brailey told the Gazette: “I had a meeting with officers on Monday (February 20).

“We have identified some potential sites and are looking at theses prior to discussing them in more detail with the town council.

“This will happen in the not too distant future,” he added.

Where would you like to see the fair go? Email your suggestions to newsdesk@northdevongazette.co.uk