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Clashing Dorset events caused road chaos this summer

By Stour & Avon Magazine  |  Posted: December 14, 2012

The Great Dorset Steam Fair and The End Of The Road Festival were held over the same weekend this summer

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THIS year's foul weather for the Great Dorset Steam Fair has highlighted the danger in having four major events - two of them within a few hundred yards of each other - over the same weekend.

Villagers from East Dorset were particularly concerned at the clash between the steam fair and the End of the Road festival at Tollard Royal, which resulted in major congestion of the A354, the only way out for those in the Gussages.

East Dorset District Councillors Simon Tong of Gussage St Michael and Steve Butler of Cranborne told the annual 'wash-up' meeting to examine the operation of the major tourism event asked whether they could have sight of any joint risk assessment made of the combined effect of the four events, which also included the Bournemouth International Air Show and Dorset County Show.

Mr Butler said: "The combined impact is bound to be more than the sum of the individual events."

Steam fair boss Martin Oliver told the meeting hosted by North Dorset District Council that this year had been the most difficult in his memory in terms of weather, and attendance had fallen as a result.

But he said that over the past few months he had lobbied in various quarters against the clash of dates between the number of event all taking place over the same weekend.

"How would the services have coped if there had been a major incident at each of them all at the same time?" he asked.

The End of the Road Festival particularly, which takes place at Tollard Royal and is accessed off the same stretch of A354 main road between Blandford and Salisbury, resulted in major congestion on the Thursday, when around 1,500 vehicles were added to those attending the steam fair.

"We had fair-goers who were stuck on the A354 for two hours," said Mr Oliver.

It came as some surprise to many of those present to hear from general manager Joyce Guest of North Dorset District Council, which licenses both the steam fair and the music festival, that they had no power to refuse events because of a clash of dates.

Issues were also raised over the enforcement of the temporary speed limit on the A354 and provision and enforcement of no parking cones in Tarrant Hinton, neither of which were possible because of temporary traffic regulation order had not been finalised.

But there was general agreement that the temporary traveller site, which operated for the second time from a field north of the steam fair site off the A354 rather than from a field accessed from Valley Road, had worked well.

North Dorset's Michael Roake said: "I would like to see a longer term commitment to the site, rather than the ad hoc short term arrangement we have got now, and Dorset County Council's head of business and countryside development Dave Ayre said they would starting thinking next year about applying for a longer-term planning permission.

Mr Oliver gave an assurance that the steam fair organisers were happy for it to be used next year, and he understood that the landowner was also agreeable, but they were both reluctant to commit to any sort of permanent agreement in case of problems arising in the future.

It was agreed that traffic management issues would be taken up with the Safety Advisory Group, and that representations would be made to Vodafone over the poor coverage available at the height of the event.

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