‘Someone needs to take responsibility’ - safety concerns about large crowds

Staff at Wayside Market in Sidmouth says someone needs to take responsibility for crowd control. Pic

Staff at Wayside Market in Sidmouth says someone needs to take responsibility for crowd control. Picture: Judith Taylor - Credit: Archant

A Sidmouth trader is calling for crowd safety measures at a popular performance spot to ensure no-one loses out during the folk festival.

Judith Taylor, of Wayside Market, in Market Place, says the business is dealing with daily access issues with spectators using the shop steps to watch street performances. The shop is closing early as a result.

The business has put up signs asking people not to block the area as Market Place proves popular with buskers, jugglers and other unofficial acts through the week, drawing in large crowds.

Mrs Taylor called for council officials and festival organisers to take action and look at a road closure, as seen during official festival activities later in the day, or provide stewards to manage the crowds.

In a post on Facebook, Mrs Taylor wrote: "From midday onwards entertainment becomes the focus and the steps become a viewing point from which people will watch either sitting or standing.

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"We are liable for our customers whilst on our premises, therefore keeping the access clear is quite important.

"I am happy for performers to be there but no-one wants to take responsibility for making sure this happens safely."

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The greengrocer said the business had not been boosted during the festival since they took over 12 years ago but it was hard to take a loss in the height of summer.

Mrs Taylor said: "We have plenty to sell to people, it's just making sure that they can get in.

"Where we are in Market Place is an amphitheatre for performances that go on unofficially. It blocks the road and it's difficult for cars to get through. It's dangerous.

"You can park there and you can drive up that road and you should be able to drive through, it should be clear.

"Someone needs to take responsibility."

Sidmouth Chamber of Commerce said the town's streets had protected status to stop it being overrun with casual businesses during the festival.

A chamber spokesperson said: "In short, there is nothing that the Festival organisers, the chamber, or the town or district councillors can do about performers who choose the wrong locations. We presume that safety in public places is the responsibility of the Police, and we will be in touch with them about this issue.

The festival brings significant economic benefits to Sidmouth, and the chamber recognises the efforts of the organisers to achieve this in a way that helps all our businesses.

"Most businesses benefit, directly or indirectly, from the festival, but there are certainly some that don't.

"They can put up with the extra traffic and inconvenience for a week or so, but irresponsible performers and spectators obstructing access to shops is unacceptable and potentially dangerous."

An East Devon District Council (EDDC) spokesman said it advised performers to move around the town to avoid causing a problem for businesses and residents and could take action if there was a specific noise nuisance.

The spokesman said if issues of obstruction should occur, to contact Devon highways or the police.

An EDDC spokesman said: "The council and event organisers want everyone to enjoy the folk festival, including visitors, local residents and businesses, so it is important that acts are not unnecessarily obstructive."

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