Letter: Harrogate Xmas Market is it really about safety?

Having read HBC ‘s somewhat evasive reason for not issuing a licence to the Harrogate Xmas Market I would like to comment.

The council quote “This plan did not fully take into account the risk of overcrowding and necessary evacuation procedures, counter-terrorism measures and the ongoing risk of Covid-19”

Richard Cooper argues that part of the problem is numbers and suggests that this could be easily controlled by issuing tickets. With all due respect two of these points contradict each other and make it obvious that the council’s problem is not about safety, but more about putting obstacles in the way to prevent the market being held on Montpellier Stray.

Using ticket as a means of crowd control would require high solid barriers ringed completely around the entire site, this action immediately creates a major problem as it pens the crowd in. So, if they are really concerned about panic overcrowding, then this is clearly the way to create it rather than the solution. Montpellier Stray area, even with the market stalls in place provides a full 360-degree open crowd dispatch area, this open access is as good as any other area in town where the council propose, the perimeter is fully open and crowds naturally automatically herd during a crisis to an open area.

Contrast this open area with any of the streets in the centre of town filled with stalls and upwards of 1000 people, how then do they cover for the access of Fire appliances or Ambulances requiring to attend shops or the market or deal with fast mass evacuation in an emergency.

Sorry HBC but fencing in an estimated 1000 crowd at any one time would really create a much greater problem and heighten a risk that does not exist at present. I am at a loss to understand how your security advisors are not advising you of this.

The other point which they raise is terrorism and the need to protect, it has been obvious from past years from the large concrete blocks put in place and paid for by the market that the perceived risk is vehicular. HBC complain that the present set up is insufficient, are they really suggesting that a further outer barrier similar to the penning is required, further adding to crowd safety?

Surely common sense plays a big part in all of this and at the end of the day we need to get on and live our lives. No matter to what extent the market organisers go to, or HBC calls for there is risk, they say that it is for safety, moving the market will not change this at all, heaven forbid but at any open event how do you prevent a terrorist entering, whether it is indoor or outdoor, Montpellier or Cambridge Street.

Eric Wright

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