By Local Democracy Reporter Ciaran Duggan
The eleventh-hour closure of a Christmas market in Broadstairs has been defended by local authority chiefs for being in the “public interest” amid the pandemic.
Kent County Council’s (KCC) scrutiny committee met yesterday (January 22) to review the decision to shut the market over safety fears last month. At the time Thanet was one of the UK Covid hotspots.
Cllr Clair Bell (Con), KCC’s cabinet member for public health, told the panel: “I think this was the right decision to take and was in the public interest.”
However, Broadstairs Christmas Market co-founder Paul Kennedy slammed the shutdown as “harsh” saying it had originally been approved by Thanet District Council.
At the time, KCC said the market posed a “serious” and “imminent” threat to life. More than 500 visitors, some from outside of Kent, were expected to browse the 28 food and drink market stalls.
County Hall public health chiefs ordered the event’s closure on December 11 after a site visit was carried out involving Trading Standards. Organisers were said to have had “insufficient” resources to make the event Covid-secure.
Broadstairs county councillor Rosalind Binks (Con) said she was “dismayed” that the “dangerous” event was allowed to run after she turned it down as chairman of Broadstairs Town Council finance committee.
Speaking to her council colleagues in the virtual meeting, she said: “It was approved by Thanet council officers in a fairly depleted department. Whilst they had worries it dragged on and on until the council realised it had to do something.”
She added: “I applaud KCC’s actions because it was generally accepted as the right decision.”
In response, Thanet District Council leader Cllr Rick Everitt (Lab) described the comments as “disappointing”.
He said: “In the context of a global pandemic we are doing all we can to protect our residents, support local business and ensure that we continue to deliver key local services to the community.
“Placing blame on one organisation within this context is unnecessary and unhelpful.”
At the online debate, KCC’s Labour leader, Cllr Dara Farrell questioned why similar actions were not taken against other companies, citing the huge queues outside Primark in Bluewater Shopping Centre, near Greenhithe.
He added: “Someone taking a cursory look at this might think KCC is happy to go around shutting down small Christmas markets, in parts of the county, because people were travelling to it and not social distancing.
“Yet, half the region were turning up at Bluewater on those afternoons.”
Following the ruling, KCC’s scrutiny committee has requested a review to be undertaken over the coronavirus legal powers that the county council has at its disposal.
Market boss Mr Kennedy said: “This was a small outdoor Christmas market consisting of outdoor retail only, with no bars or children’s entertainment where visitors might congregate.
“An outdoor market of this nature, with managed visitor numbers, social distancing, and, extra sanitation measures in place, was much safer than visiting indoor shops and supermarkets for some pre-Christmas shopping.”
On November 27, KCC public chiefs also faced scrutiny over their handling of the chaotic closure of Circus Zyair in Paddock Wood during the October half-term. Dozens of disappointed families were turned away at the last minute.
Well obviously it was the right thing to do considering the high rate of super virulent covid-19 spreading throughout Thanet at the time. When we are trying to reduce death rates nationwide and locally we need to cut out anything that can be considered to help the virus multiply. It was another foolish action by TDC officers to allow it in the first place. KCC were right to close it down. Unfortunately for those market sellers who turned up to trade though. TDC could be liable for compensation to them now.
If an outdoors market “posed a serious and imminent threat to life”, then what did Westwood Cross do?
Westwood Cross is a threat to Civilisation as we know it.
Haha, that made me literally laugh out loud!
have you been on the dubes Phyllis?
Meanwhile, over in Ramsgate we’ve miles and miles of wide open prom and a harbour. Huge swathes of space for all manner of events especially festive ones and markets. Covid or no Covid, Ramsgate would be hugely popular for an event like this. I dare say the narrow space at Broadstairs was entirely unsuitable during a pandemic, but to suggest it was an imminent threat to live? Bit dramatic? Try visiting the fruit n veg aisle in any supermarket, the aisle by the door. Rammed.