Last weekend Kenilworth suffered another Horse Fair. I do not think the word suffered is inappropriate. I was in town on Saturday and things seemed normal but it is clear that Sunday’s atmosphere was very different. Anyone trying to drive through the town, or even join the traffic from their own driveway, would have found it very difficult to do so.
Many hours of council employees’ time and much tax payers money has been spent clearing up the mess left behind. Worse still, people who live or work in Kenilworth have felt intimidated by bad behaviour ranging from scuffles in the street to the use of verges as a toilet. None of this has anything to do with cultural traditions. The antisocial acts on display this weekend are unacceptable whatever your background or ethnic origin and I do not see why Kenilworth should be expected to put up with them. I understand of course that there were other events on in Kenilworth that day which would have contributed to the traffic congestion and doubtless the closure of the Leamington Road did not help, but this is not the first time the town has suffered this kind of disruption.
Last year’s April Horse Fair was also a deeply unpleasant experience for residents and there has been considerable criticism in the past, not least from me, of police resources assigned to Horse Fairs. This year, I do not criticise Kenilworth’s local officers who I believe generally do a very good job for us but events like this one and the behaviour it seems to bring with it cannot be managed only by those who normally police the town.
When things last got this bad, I pointed out to the Chief Constable that thankfully Kenilworth rarely needs intensive policing and he can usually deploy resource elsewhere in the county where there is greater need. But in return Kenilworth must have its share when there is a need and on Horse Fair days that need is sadly all too predictable. To be fair to the Chief Constable, the number of uniforms on display increased at subsequent Fairs, but it would seem that things have slipped back and I will be taking the matter up with him again this week.
I have also spoken to the Leader of the District Council, who I know shares my concerns, and will explore with him what more can be done to restrict this event. It is true that it takes place on private land, but its effects are felt on the public highways and beyond. The landowner must accept his responsibilities to the rest of the community. It cannot be right that he makes a profit from the Horse Fairs and expects us to pay the bill for their consequences. If he will not, I cannot accept that public authorities are unable to take any action. In the long run, it is worth noting that the land on which the Horse Fairs take place is intended for development under the District Council’s Local Plan but nobody in Kenilworth wants to face more weekends like the last one before that happens.