I read this on Mark Forkitt’s blog:
“Tomorrow our road is closed so a few people with money to burn can race noisy polluting machines around the lanes. I have no idea why every local motoring club and organisation seems to think it is their right to have our little road closed for their events. The neighbours have made grumbling comment to me.”
“I'm not surprised as the fields around here are largely equine or horticultural. Of the nine fields bordering mine there is only one - the one coincidently not owned by a local resident - that is used for potatoes. The others are occupied by local resident smallholders with equines, sheep or horticultural planting. They are used all year round. The notice to residents advises they should move animals, but that's not so easy, especially as you cannot put equines on many fields - that's the law!”
There seem to be an increasing number of “event tourism” events which block off roads.
The Marathon disrupted some roads, but just a week later, another event breaks on us. While the events themselves may appear in the diary for the whole year, rather like the Medium Term Financial Plan recently passed by the States, the actual routes and times are often not given until quite late in the day. There is maybe a week or two notice.
While I can understand that it is useful to alert the public near the immediate time of the event, so that they will not forget, I think it is also important that the times and places are detailed much further in advance, and a genuine discussion takes place to ensure that the problems alluded to by Mark Forskitt do not occur.
Carol replied to my comments on Facebook, commenting that:
“I was standing in a field on Friday with a gentlement in his 80's, whose son has 300 head of cattle, and who made alternative arrangements so that his livestock were not in that field on the day of the rally. Thank goodness for all those who agree to the rally passing their property, because despite what Mr Forskitt thinks that the countryside isn't just a place for everyone to pass through, actually yes it is for everyone and long may these great events conintue to be held.”
But Mark pointed out that the situation is actually more complex than that, and how one person can solve the problem may differ for others:
“300 head of cattle isn't smallholding. At that scale you probably have choice because you have a lot of land. If all you have is one or two small fields you dont. And if its equines you have even fewer options and the law prohibits them on most fields.”
Perhaps the solution would be for the venue organisers to either make sure routes do not go by those with one or two small fields for livestock and equines, or alternatively to negotiate arrangements (which might come at a cost) for renting other fields for the duration of the event.
Another commentator said:
“I understand that it can be difficult, a friend of mine, with horses, was penned in on Saturday as the rally did a complete circuit of their property, but its only a couple of days after all”
And commenting on the two events – the Marathon last weekend, the Rally this weekend, came this comment:
“Took 45 minutes last week to get about 500 yards to our house, we could see it but we couldn't get to it.....the traffic Marshall informs us that we were lucky because this weekend was going to be much worse”
Mick said: “They use our road every Two years, they always visit to seek permission we love to watch the action ,one night every two years can't see the problem myself.”
But Paul replied: “Mick they visit you yes, then ignore your comments, don't phone you back when you have a question or provide information they promise will be available. Total lack of respect for people so no wonder some people don't welcome it.”
Events also impact on the Honorary Police. It is assumed by these event organisers that officers will willingly give their time to undertaking traffic duties - seemingly every weekend. That is not what the organisation is about at all.
If the event organisers had to pay the States police to undertake traffic duties, they would find the events cost more. As far as I am aware, no donations are made to the Honorary Police, and the event organisers are basically getting a free overhead which costs nothing to them.
My correspondent Adam Gardiner says:
“We have got to be sensible about events that cause traffic disruption and the ability of islanders to move around freely. There has to be a limit - but it seems no-one wants to discourage an event as that may upset our attempts to rebuild our tourism. But it’s a double edged sword. While the competitors and participants in these events are themselves tourists and many attract a handful over as ardent followers/spectators, it also is a source of frustration for other visitors who are here with entirely different purpose and interest - and they remain in the majority.”
And the number of events is increasing, so while for one event it may be just once a year, or once every two years, when they begin to cluster together on the calendar, this can cause disruption for two or more weeks running.
It becomes like the utility companies, digging up roads without conferring with each other, something which should be reduced to a bare minimum by Eddie Noel’s promise of a Street Works Law in January 2015. (And let us hope this is not a political promise!)
Senator Lyndon Farnham wants an organisation to take over Event Funding, but also presumably for co-ordinating events, and there is a degree of sense in that. There certainly needs to be a better way to do things. After all, this is an Island, not a vast and sprawling multi-purpose sport's track.
The Senator said: ""Events Jersey will act as a facilitator to put on and stage events and actually utilise all of the infrastructure and investment we've got for the Island Games to make sure we have a year round and full programme of events and festivals".
We need better co-ordination, better channels for feedback, and actually listening to people like Mark, who have genuine problems caused by such events., and a public who are better informed from the start about potential disruption. And due consideration should also be given to events making a notional donation to the Honorary Police rather than just free-loading off them.
If all that can be achieved by an Event Coordinating Body, it will be good both for the Island, and for Tourism. It is a goal worth aiming for. If not, expect more grumbles as these events increase in number.