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Milton Rec funfair in Vicarage Road, Milton, near Sittingbourne, causes controversy

A funfair which was held in a town park has triggered a storm of controversy over the weekend.

The attraction at Milton Rec in Vicarage Road, Milton, near Sittingbourne, was in the middle of a debate about whether it was appropriate to hold during the current pandemic.

The funfair at Milton Rec, Sittingbourne ran from Thursday to Sunday. Picture: Glen Smith
The funfair at Milton Rec, Sittingbourne ran from Thursday to Sunday. Picture: Glen Smith

Some residents were angered by the decision, with one councillor commenting he was "amazed" it was given the go ahead, while others claimed it was harmless fun which followed government guidelines.

The fair arrived on Thursday and was inspected by Swale council which gave it the all-clear before it packed up and left on Sunday.

Ian Maggs, who has had his own car shows turned down by the local authority, said: "The government's advice from day one has been to stay home if you can. How does this encourage that statement? They wouldn't allow my car shows to go ahead back in June and August. It is a crazy carry on."

While photographer Glen Smith asked: "Can anyone please explain how Swale council can allow this to take place?

"We have been told by the government that we can't mix in groups of more than six or face getting a hefty fine yet they are encouraging people to sit on rides at a funfair. Where is the logic in that?

Swale council inspected the fun fair before it opened and gave it the green light. Picture: Glen Smith
Swale council inspected the fun fair before it opened and gave it the green light. Picture: Glen Smith

"This should never have been allowed to happen. It will be a nightmare to police the social distancing rules that are in place.

"Maybe they just want to generate some revenue through fines? The mind boggles."

But Amanda Ranger wrote on Facebook: "I think it's great that so many people can actually get out and have a great time.

"I just walked around the outside with my dog and even I had fun listening to the music and people laughing and screaming on the rides. Made my day. Not much to laugh about nowadays. If you don't feel safe, don't go."

The Meads ward councillor James Hunt (Con) was shocked it all went ahead.

One Swale councillor said he was "amazed" the event went ahead. Picture: Glen Smith
One Swale councillor said he was "amazed" the event went ahead. Picture: Glen Smith

He said: "The land which the fair is situated on belongs to the council and I don't feel that the council should be promoting events that have the potential to encourage large gatherings while we are in the middle of a pandemic, especially now that we have had legislation put in place where groups of more than six should not be meeting, and at a time when the infection rate of COVID-19 appears to be rapidly rising. Hiring the land out gives the public the wrong message."

Cllr Hunt added he understands steps would have been taken to maintain social distancing and it's an "important message" to continue trading where people can, but said social distancing will be "difficult to enforce" in situations like this.

A spokesman from the council said: “We worked with the operator and health and safety advisors to make sure the fair was COVID secure.

“As an outdoor event, the risks associated with transmission are lower than indoor events, but we understand some people may have had concerns about their ability to comply with the new government guidance.

Marylebone Jelly at the drive-in concert at the Woodstock, Sittingbourne, on Saturday. Picture: Nikki Hale
Marylebone Jelly at the drive-in concert at the Woodstock, Sittingbourne, on Saturday. Picture: Nikki Hale

“Having visited the site and worked with the operator, we were satisfied that the extensive measures they put in place to keep visitors safe – limiting capacity, stewards ensuring people comply with the rule of six, cleaning and hand sanitising arrangements -that they demonstrated they could meet the current government requirements.”

Elsewhere at the weekend, in Brighton, a funfair held in the city every autumn was asked to close early by health officials who were concerned about the increase in coronavirus cases.

Alistair Hill, its director of public health, said: "To slow the virus we all need to step up physical distancing, wear face coverings where advised, limit contact between households and follow the 'rule of six'."

Meanwhile, in Sittingbourne on Saturday night two bands, Marylebone Jelly and Marvellous Mo and the Backline Ferrets, staged a socially distanced drive-in concert at The Woodstock where fans were allowed to dance round their cars for £40 a ticket.

Marylebone's lead singer Ed Austin said afterwards: "I don't think we'd realised how emotional we'd all feel seeing everyone having the good time that we maybe took for granted a little before.

"The whole event was Covid-compliant and helped us prove a drive-in show could be done and done safely. It was awesome."

"Massive thanks to the main man Mo (Maurice Dunk) who came up with the idea and made it happen and Marvellous Mo And The Back Line Ferrets who kick-started the evening."

He added: "The whole event was Covid-compliant and helped us prove a drive-in show could be done and done safely. It was awesome."

Another funfair ran by Forrest Amusements is set to open this Thursday at the Sittingbourne recreation ground.

Read more: All the latest news from Sittingbourne

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