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Royal Regatta fireworks cancelled

3 July 09 13:44 GMT

The traditional fireworks to mark the end of the Henley Royal Regatta have been cancelled at the last moment.

The organiser said Wokingham Borough Council had "gone back on" a decision to close footpaths "crucial" for health and safety, with under 48 hours to go.

Businessman James Brennan had tried to keep the Saturday night display going at a new location, after it was banned at the regatta following a stabbing.

The council said a public consultation was needed to close the footpaths.

The regatta committee decided in February to stop holding the traditional fireworks, blaming drunken and rowdy behaviour.

A Belgian rower was stabbed during the 2008 display.

The annual rowing competition takes place over a stretch of the Thames, just under a mile-and-a-half in length, on the border of Berkshire and Oxfordshire.

About 30,000 people attend each day.

Mr Brennan said: "Wokingham council had agreed to suspend a very small stretch of footpath for a short time either side of the display.

"Everything was set to go ahead, with organisers promising the best display, only to be dashed late on Thursday by the council's unexplained change of heart."

He said he and his team had "stressed that thousands of people would be let down by this decision and they would be unable to notify the many people who had made plans in time - this proved to be of no interest to them".

Wokingham Borough Council said two footpaths crossed the new venue.

A spokesman said: "The temporary closure of public rights of way - however short - is likely to be contentious and we have to make sure that proper consultation is carried out with all the relevant parties.

"The key issue is the closure of a public right of way to facilitate a private event."

He said he had received a complaint from one user group, despite the event not being formally advertised.

"This, to me, reflects the potential intensity of feeling that is likely to arise over the closure of these public rights of way."

He encouraged future applications to be made in "good time".

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