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Activists accuse Billy Smart's Circus of damaging Kingsmead Field in Canterbury and destroying wildlife habitats

By Lowri Stafford

Kingsmead Field campaigners said the site had been churned up in a "deliberate act of vandalism" after the circus arrived in Canterbury.

A big top sprung up and dozens of caravans and lorries descended on the land as Billy Smart’s Circus rolled into the city.

But councillors and members of the Save Kingsmead Field campaign fear damage done to the site and wildlife habitats could be irreparable.

The circus has moved onto Kingsmead Field

They say lorries have crushed wildflowers, heavy machinery has compacted the ground and destroyed the turf, and poles have made deep holes in the land making sport dangerous in future.

Speaking at a meeting of Canterbury councillors on Monday, Cllr Alan Baldock (Lab) said: "The whole field is being churned up. It's being wrecked, flattened and driven over by trucks."

He blasted the city council for failing to tell campaigners about the event, adding: "I find the actions of this council disgusting and duplicitous.

Vehicles are said to have crushed wild flowers

"They've told campaigners they should be taking an interest in looking after the field, and now they are bullying them out of it."

Lib Dem leader Alex Perkins described the damage as "wanton and deliberate vandalism", while Cllr James Flanagan demanded to know how the council planned to fix it.

After the meeting, campaigner Sian Pettman said the circus was "pushing the field to its limits".

Sian Pettman from the Save Kingsmead Field campaign

She continued: "There is a large area of meadow grass at the back of the field, which the council keeps uncut to encourage wildlife including slow worms.

"Much of it has been flattened by the heavy circus lorries. This should not have been allowed, but there was no supervision on site and the space available was not enough for all the lorries, caravans, heavy equipment and circus marquees."

Mrs Pettman called for large events like the circus to be held elsewhere, and pleaded with the council to help repair the damage and draw up a joint management plan to protect the field in future.

Wild flowers growing on the field

Billy Smart's Circus spokesman Angie Hook said damage was unlikely to occur as the weather conditions were so dry.

She said: "There is usually only damage if it is very wet. You can't help the weather in England, and sometimes the ground gets churned up when the lorries leave.

"The forecast is dry in Canterbury this week so I can't see it being a problem. If there is damage, we will pay the council a reinstatement fee."

Billy Smart's Circus is on the field until Sunday

The council's assistant director for direct services, Larissa Reed, said the authority's events team worked closely with the circus organisers, who had to pay a daily rate to use the field and a deposit in case of damage.

She also said the council was reviewing what should be allowed to take place on the land it owned.

Council spokesman Celia Glynn-Williams added: "The circus has been held on Kingsmead Field for many years and is hugely popular with local residents."

The extreme stunt show caused controversy last year

The furore comes a year after a stunt show involving monster trucks and motorbikes left scorch marks on the field and a sea of litter in its wake.

Councillors who complained about the Extreme Stunt Show Live last year were furious to discover it is due to take place at the field again next month.

Cllr Perkins added: "Last year, I was given a promise by council officers that this would not happen again, and now they're bringing back the same event."

The circus will be at Kingsmead Field until Sunday.

A decision by the council not to voluntarily grant the entire field village green status and instead make 80% of it protected open space will be reviewed by the executive committee in September.

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