Landlady to close pub during horse festival after police call

Last year's Wickham Horse Fair Picture: UKNIP
Last year's Wickham Horse Fair Picture: UKNIP
  • Landlady Koren Blake says she was advised by police that they would not be able to respond quickly in an emergency during the Wickham Horse Fair
  • She was told most of the area’s police manpower would be at the annual festival
  • Fair takes place on May 20 every year
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A LANDLADY has said she is disappointed she will have to close her pub for two days this weekend while a local travellers’ event takes place.

She claimed police told businesses in the Wickham area that officers would not be able to respond quickly in an emergency during the annual Wickham Horse Fair, because of a lack of available manpower.

It is a nervous situation but I don’t want to put us at risk.

Koren Blake

Koren Blake, owner of The Brickmakers in Swanmore, said police had rung to tell her other traders in the area would be closing their doors this weekend and that most of the area’s officers would be at the festival.

Thousands of people are expected to attend the annual fair, on Saturday, which is a staple of the travelling community’s calendar.

The festival dates back 800 years and regularly has a large police presence watching over proceedings.

Mrs Blake, who has run the pub for six years, said: ‘The police said if we stayed open they might not have enough officers to give a quick response in an emergency.

‘It is a nervous situation but I don’t want to put us at risk. If something happened I don’t know if we would be covered by insurance and we wouldn’t get any compensation.

‘When you pay your business rates, there should be enough officers to safeguard us and keep us open.

‘We have closed most years since I’ve been here, but these should be two of our busiest days of the year.

‘The police have not got the budgets and not enough officers, they need to save money for this weekend and bring in more staff from other counties if needed.’

Three years ago, six people were convicted of offences after a court saw shocking video evidence of a brawl between members of two families at Wickham.

A Hampshire police spokesman said they had been in contact with local councils and businesses about the festival.

Superintendent Alison Heydari said: ‘We resource all events according to the assessed risk. There will be officers in high-visibility uniform available throughout the event to respond to any issues that may arise.’

The fair takes place in The Square, Wickham, which will be closed to traffic from 4.30am until 8pm on Saturday.

RSPCA chief inspector Paul Williams said: ‘We will have a team of officers and a vet at the fair who will be there to offer advice and to ensure horses are being cared for properly.

‘We are also urging spectators coming to enjoy the event to not bring their dogs with them as we have had previous concerns about them being left in hot vehicles during the festival.’