HEALTH and safety at the historic Yarm Fair is coming under scrutiny as organisers finalise plans for this year’s event.

The Showmen’s Guild is calling on Stockton Borough Council to loosen its grip on the annual event while ensuring visitors can enjoy next month’s event safely.

George Bliss, the chairman of the Northern Section of the Guild, issued the plea when he was a guest at a Yarm Town Council meeting to update members about the situation after doubts were cast over the fair’s long-term future earlier this year.

The Independent Safety Advisory Group (ISAG), which is made up of professional and emergency services experts, identified a number of concerns, putting the fair at risk.

Speaking at the meeting, Mr Bliss told members that the Guild had been told to change the way it sets up on the High Street, which could result in fewer fair rides arriving in town.

“It’s difficult for us right now, but there is still a long way to go in the negotiations to get this right,” he said.

When asked whether the Guild faced similar problems in other towns where it set up, including Northallerton and Stokesley, he said: “No, this is the only town where this is occurring and I don’t know why.

“We have been coming here for years, as we have in Stokesley, Northallerton and Stanhope, and most people welcome us there.

“Unfortunately, Stockton Borough Council wants its pound of flesh, and is telling us to do one thing, but is increasing the rent – it’s difficult, but then again it is a work in progress.”

Members of the town council voted to support the Guild in any way they could to secure the future of the fair.

Councillor Jim Beall, Stockton Borough Council’s cabinet member for health, leisure and culture, said safety was paramount to the council.

He said: “There have been a number of genuine and serious issues reported to the council by the ISAG about Yarm Fair in recent years, so we’re working with the Showmen’s Guild to work out how their event can be staged safely on Yarm High Street, which is a challenging location.

“It’s important to remember that we do not charge the Showmen’s Guild rent for this event.

“Any extra safety measures and traffic controls put in place are essential to protect the public.

“We cannot put the profit of fairground rides above the safety of our residents and visitors.”