Horse fair divides opinions

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PETERLEE Police chiefs say this year’s Horden Horse Fair passed largely without incident – but some businesses have criticised the event.

Apart from an incident in which a horse bolted and damaged a garden wall in Grants Houses , officers say there were no reports of trouble.

Travellers from as far as Canada and the USA descended on the village’s Sea View Industrial Estate in the week leading up to the bank holiday for the gathering.

Local traders, including the Sea View Diner food van and The Bell pub, saw a boost in business due to the influx of visitors, but some firms on the industrial estate itself have expressed concerns about the behaviour of travellers and congestion and say they want the event pulled in future.

One local businesswoman, who did not want to be named, said: “It hasn’t gone without incident. Nobody wants the fair here, it’s just total disruption.”

She claimed that staff had been threatened by travellers and there were congestion problems and said as well as the annual event, travellers camp on the site every other week and leave litter.

The woman added: “Businesses are talking about moving out.

“Firms had to close on the weekend of the fair.

“It’s not known if it is a legal fair. They are trespassing on that land, but the police and council allow it to happen.”

“We get eight or nine caravans parked up most weeks, with 20-odd horses and people’s laundry hanging off lamp-posts, which isn’t good for business.

But Eddie Richardson, a spokesman for the travellers, said: “I don’t mind if we do something wrong, but a lot of the time we are not to blame.

“With the incident with the horse and the garden wall, that was someone who wasn’t with the fair, though we have been reparing the wall.”

The 48-year-old, who is usually based in Houghton-le-Spring, said the fair was a chance for traveller families to meet up and added: “The road was never blocked as we made a point with police to put up signs to keep the area clear.

“It’s quite possible that people could get verbal abuse, but a lot of people come here who aren’t travellers.

“We will come back next year if possible, we have left the field tidy and as far as I know the fair has gone without incident.”

Inspector Dave Coxon, of Peterlee Police, said: “We will be having a meeting in the next few weeks about the fair and if anyone has any comments they want to make they are more than welcome to give me a call.

“Sergeant Iain Dickinson and his team spoke to businesses before the event about what their perspecitve was and their views will be fed into the next debrief.”

Colette Longbottom, Durham County Council’s head of legal and democratic services, said: “The legalities of events such as these are complex.

“As such, we work closely with the police to ensure they are conducted in a safe and controlled manner in order to minimise the impact on residents.”