Todmorden Charity Carnival organisers have slammed Calderdale Council’s decision to fine the group over damage to Centre Vale Park as “scandalous”.
Carnival chairman Philip Clarke said his committee had been fined £400 by Calderdale Council after a lorry drove over the edge of protective matting and onto the field.
The move has led to criticism that the council is making it even more difficult for volunteer organisers to hold public events in the Todmorden park.
“They might as well build a brick wall across the field,” Mr Clarke said. “It’s scandalous and it is money coming out of charity. I am very disgusted.
“My vehicle travelled 100 metres, that’s all. There wasn’t a churning up of the ground, it didn’t break it. There were a couple of indentations.”
The fine would have been £800 but had been halved after a lorry unrelated to the carnival had also driven over the grass surface, he said. But Calderdale Council’s head of neighbourhoods, Andrew Pitts, said it had been made clear to the carnival and all other event organisers that heavy vehicles were not allowed on certain parts of the park without adequate ground protection.
Mr Pitts explained why the rules had been drawn up: “This is to safeguard the drainage which is part of the flood alleviation system providing important flood protection to the town.
“Despite this, we became aware that a large vehicle associated with the carnival had entered a prohibited part of the park. Therefore, we had no choice but to appoint an independent expert to confirm whether the breach of weight restrictions had caused any damage to the expensive drainage system. We have always been clear that Centre Vale Park can continue to be used for large events as long as organisers work with us to put in measures to mitigate damage to the drainage system.
“This has been demonstrated with the recent Todmorden Country Fair, and we are always happy to work with organisers to ensure that safe and successful events can take place in the park.”
Mr Clarke said it was impossible to police every vehicle movement 100 per cent of the time. He said event organisers knew the flood defence scheme was supposedly to help protect the town but added: “Before the scheme they promised us it would be for use for all the events.
“As we’re looking at it, Calderdale doesn’t want anything there. You’re up against it all the time.”
Mr Clarke said he would be asking for a full breakdown of costs and was also considering going to the Ombudsman over the matter.