Page last updated at 16:30 GMT, Friday, 19 March 2010

Cambridge Strawberry Fair cancelled over police concern

Festival-goers at Strawberry Fair, Cambridge, 2009
15,000 people were expected at the festival on Midsummer Common

Organisers of the Cambridge Strawberry Fair have cancelled this year's event after police challenged the granting of a licence by the city council.

They said the effort needed to ensure an alcohol licence for the event would take up too much volunteers' time.

Cambridgeshire Police made the appeal to question "the legal position in the licensing magistrates' court".

Cambridge MP David Howarth said: "It should be left to elected councillors not unelected police."

The organising committee said in a statement: "In view of the continuing hostility of the police towards Strawberry Fair the organisers have reluctantly taken the decision to cancel this year's event."

Seventy three arrests

Justin Argent, Chairman of Strawberry Fair, said: "The police appeal of the decision made by Cambridge City Council means that we now have to put all our efforts into fighting that appeal, rather than into the detailed preparations for the 2010 fair."

Ch Supt Rob Needle said: "We are surprised that the Strawberry Fair organisers have decided to cancel this year's event.

"Let me make it absolutely clear once again that we are not against the event in principle, and never have been.

"Last year, however, there were 73 arrests, 244 people were given formal warnings for cannabis possession and eight were given penalty notices for urinating in public.

"In total there were more than 400 prosecutions. This raises issues under the Licensing Act of 2003 and therefore we made an appeal for further consideration of the legal position by the licensing magistrates' court."

The fair ran more smoothly last year thanks to the hard work of the Strawberry Committee, council, police and local residents. We hoped to build on those arrangements this year
Julie Smith, Cambridge City Council

The Strawberry Fair in Cambridge was given the go-ahead by Cambridge City Council despite complaints about drug and alcohol abuse last year.

Cambridge MP David Howarth said: "I am extremely saddened by this news.

"This is not an issue on which the police should have been allowed to dictate.

"It should be left to democratically elected councillors to make decisions like these that affect our city, not unelected police officers."

Julie Smith, councillor for arts and recreation, said: "Strawberry Fair makes an extremely valuable cultural contribution to Cambridge.

'Listened carefully'

"The fair ran more smoothly last year thanks to the hard work of the Strawberry Committee, council, police and local residents. We hoped to build on those arrangements this year."

Jennifer Liddle, who chairs the council's licensing committee, said: "The committee listened very carefully to all of the evidence presented to it, by the police and by the Strawberry Fair committee.

"They unanimously decided that the new look Strawberry Fair should be granted a licence.

"We believed the conditions we imposed on the licence would address issues such as anti-social behaviour and allow people of all ages to enjoy this event once again."



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SEE ALSO
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