Page last updated at 15:54 GMT, Friday, 12 March 2010

Gloucestershire cheese-rolling off due to safety fears


The Cooper's Hill Cheese Rolling Committee called off the event

This year's cheese-rolling event in Gloucestershire has been cancelled after concerns about safety because of the number of spectators it attracts.

Organisers of the event at Cooper's Hill near Brockworth said 15,000 people attended last year's event - more than three times the site's capacity.

Police and the local authority are working with the cheese rolling committee to improve safety and access.

It is hoped the event will go ahead on the late May Bank Holiday in 2011.

One of the organisers Richard Jefferies said: "A few years ago we were only having several hundred people.

"Last year, the police estimate was 15,000 and they reckon it will be even more this year because it has got so internationally well-known.

"It's a matter of trying to find some way of reducing the numbers attending."

The annual event takes place at Cooper's Hill in Gloucestershire

He said apart from the health and safety aspects, organisers needed to respect the concerns of local people, some of whom had property damaged by people climbing over fences.

The event had public liability insurance cover for 5,000 people and the insurance company would have to know exactly how many were coming if the number was exceeded, he added.

Also, the roads were becoming too congested to allow emergency services to get vehicles to the site in the event of an accident.

The competition, which dates back hundreds of years, involves participants chasing a 7lb Double Gloucester cheese down the hill in a series of races.

The winner of each race wins the cheese.

All of the cheeses thrown down the hill are made by Diana Smart, 83, on her farm at Birdwood in the Forest of Dean.

She said she was "shattered" by the news that this year's event had been cancelled.

"I'm shaking at the prospect of not having any cheese-rolling," she said.

"It is one of our biggest raisers of funds for the business, particularly this year when we're desperately trying to increase our premises."

Inspector Stephen Norris, of Gloucestershire Constabulary, said the police and Gloucestershire County Council had been working with the event's organisers, the Cooper's Hill Cheese Rolling Committee (CHCRC) and advising them on how to create a safer event.

He added: "A vote was held by the CHCRC as to whether the 2010 event should go ahead. Their decision was to postpone this year's event.

"Gloucestershire Constabulary and our partner agencies will continue to advise and work with the organisers of the Cooper's Hill Cheese Rolling to examine what changes can be made for the event to go ahead in 2011."

Gloucestershire County Councillor Mark Hawthorne said he would get in touch with the organisers to see if there was anything the council could do "to help get this great Gloucestershire event back on track".

"Cheese-rolling has been going on for hundreds of years and we must ensure that this great tradition continues," he added.

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