Charity shows on the lawns under threat?

PUBLISHED: 12:30 04 November 2010

Keith Palmer

Keith Palmer

Archant

CHARITY events held on the Beach Lawns in Weston could face a bleak future if council bosses go ahead with plans to charge organisers for using the area.

Cash-strapped North Somerset Council is considering introducing new fees and charges for the hire of its land, including the Beach Lawns and promenade.

Dedicated fund-raiser Keith Palmer, who has been holding charity motor events on the seafront lawns for 41 years, learned about the authority’s proposals last week from another organiser.

The 71-year-old, who arranges the Pageant of Transport over the Easter weekend in aid of the town’s sea cadets and Weston RNLI’s Classic Car Show in September, has raised around £60,000 for charity in the past four decades.

He described the council’s plans as ‘shocking’ and said this could be the end for many charity events held on the Beach Lawns.

He said: “I booked the land for next year’s Easter event straight after the last one, and still haven’t been told by the council about its plans.

“I feel it’s a bit underhanded and does that mean that everything that uses the land is going to be charged, including Helidays and runs that start there?

“All of these events bring more people and money to the town, as well as raising thousands of pounds for charity. Times are hard enough without another added cost.”

Keith, of Chesham Road South, said he was told the council is looking to charge organisers £1,000-a-day for events which carry an entry fee, and £500-a-day for free events from April 1.

He fears many people will not be able to afford these rates, including himself, and believes the council may use his Easter event to test the water before making a firm decision.

A council spokesman said its plans were in the ‘early stages’ and ‘no figures have been discussed’ yet.

He added: “Up until now all charity-linked events get the land for free despite considerable work going into the administration of the event by the council. In the current financial climate this is no longer sustainable especially when some of these events charge entrance fees.”

He said a report is being put together and the council is advising organisers who book events for next year that charges may be introduced.

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