A council ban on bunting being strung across roads during a traditional festival has received backlash from the public.
The event, Lytham Club Day, includes a parade through the town and surrounding villages.
However, this year, Lancashire County Council (LCC) has told organisers that bunting cannot be used in certain places over health and safety concerns, much to the bewilderment of local residents.
Highways officials have said bunting can no longer be strung across roads or from concrete lamp posts as it poses a “risk to safety”. Instead, officials have recommended that bunting be cut up and spiralled down posts, a suggestion that has been mocked on social media.
The event’s Facebook page, entitled “Bunting Balderdash”, bemoans the possibility of the iconic street decorations not being seen this year.
Health and safety gone mad?
Organiser Catherine Powell was told the festival could no longer hang bunting across roads or from lamp posts in case it fell down and caused an incident, or came into contact with a tall vehicle. Ms Powell has said that she cannot understand why the ruling has suddenly come into force, labelling it “health and safety gone mad”.
In a post on Facebook, Ms Powell told the page: “This year is our 125th anniversary and for the first time we have been required to seek consent from LCC to span bunting along the parade route and it has been refused”.
She reasoned: “If it was a major health and safety factor and it was pulling lamp posts down and a kid could get killed under a lamp post because bunting has pulled it down, of course we wouldn’t put it up”.
Speaking on the issue, which has been dubbed “bunting-gate” on social media, Ms Powell said the festival had been “dogged” by health and safety for the last few years.
She said: “We have had to bring in barriers to barrier the roads off. In the last ten years, the club day could have gone under because of all the regulations. The bunting is just another hurdle to get over”.
Organisers are now calling on the council to provide “proof” that bunting is a legitimate health and safety issue.
Club day vice chair Anne Aitken said: “Every year, we pay people to put bunting that we own up around the town. This year, the council sent us a letter saying ‘you can’t do that’. They seem to think that the bunting could come loose and fall down bringing bits of concrete lamp post with it, it’s bizarre”. She stressed: “Nothing like that has happened in the last 125 years, so I don’t know why it’s a problem now”.
The LCC councillor responsible for highways, Keith Iddon, said the policy had been in place for 40 years but never enforced. He admitted that he hadn’t realised that the policy existed himself until the issue was raised.
Mr Iddon claims that if bunting fell down, wrapped around a cyclist and pulled them under a car, there would be public outrage that it had been allowed to happen.
The council say the problem is the anchor rather than the bunting. Responding to the basklash, they told those concerned: “We recognise the importance of festivals and club days, and like to do as much as we can to support them; however, we can’t give permission and therefore become liable for things which could be a risk to safety”.
“Bunting can be strung across the road from attachment points high on buildings; however, our policy for many years, based on national guidance, has not allowed bunting to be strung across the road between streetlights in case it falls down and causes an incident or comes in contact with a high vehicle”.
The council insist that they “would be happy to work with event organisers to advise on appropriate attachment points which could allow bunting to be strung across the road in future”.
‘Disheartening and authoritarian’
Hundreds have criticised the ruling on social media. Constituency MP Mark Menzies is also demanding it be overturned.
One critic commented: “I’m not surprised by the ruling as it’s a sign of the times. How on earth us pre-snowflake, blame culture generation managed to reach our senior years without all these rulings mystifies me”.
Another complained: “This appears to be a complete over-reaction and a ridiculous use of health and safety regulation. These celebrations have happened for decades with no issue relating to bunting across our streets”. They go on: “I’m not aware of any safety concerns raised previously about the bunting nor have I been made aware of any damage caused by the bunting. So why the change and over-zealous use of legislation to ban a traditional part of our club day celebrations?”
Echoing a common sentiment, they concluded by saying that the “ridiculous” change in rules is “both disheartening and authoritarian”.