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Showground gridlock - 'lessons must be learned'

Tens of thousands of people descended on Detling for this year's Kent Show. Picture: Paul Dennis
Tens of thousands of people descended on Detling for this year's Kent Show. Picture: Paul Dennis

Kent Police claim serious lessons need to be learned from the way visitor traffic was handled at the Kent County Show on Sunday.

The three-day event ended in near chaos as thousands of people tried to leave the county showground at Detling but became gridlocked for up to two hours.

The showground management has apologised and admitted the traffic plan "didn't work as well as anticipated".

The police stepped in at 3.30pm to assist car park marshalls on site - but the experience left a bitter taste in some visitors' mouths who had otherwise enjoyed the fun-filled weekend.

Kent Messenger Group journalist Neill Barston was at the showground on Sunday. He said: "It was a fabulous family event - but the organisation of the parking was shambolic.

"It took us nearly an hour to get in on Sunday afternoon, and trying to get out was even worse. There appeared to be woefully few staff monitoring the exits."

Sunday saw a big surge in visitor numbers due to the good weather, which led to major traffic delays as on-site stewards struggled to cope with the volume of cars.

At previous county shows, the police were responsible for directing traffic around the showground.

But following national changes by the Association of Chief Police Officers, the authorities can now impose greater charges for their work at commercial events, placing more onus on event organisers to handle marshalling duties themselves.

Ch Insp Ian Hall of Mid Kent Police said: "The event organisers became responsible for the traffic management plan. However, officers had to intervene and assist on Sunday when issues arose.

He added: "This was about finding alternatives to putting police officers on jobs that can be done by someone else in the right circumstances.

"But we clearly need to revisit this, in conjunction with the Highways Agency and the event organisers, to make sure this doesn’t happen again."

David Goff, general manager of the county showground, said: "We had a new traffic plan in place but due to vast number of people coming through it didn't work as well as anticipated.

"We can only apologise for this and we will endeavor to get it right for next year."

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