Until 23rd January 2018, Councillors were unable to comment on the decision of the Recreation Committee on 17 January 2018 to refuse permission to host/stage a New Great Aycliffe Show on the grounds owned by Great Aycliffe Town Council.

A motion was passed under the Public Bodies (Admission to Meetings Act 1960) S1(2) that press and public be excluded owing to the confidential and private nature of the item to be discussed, ie the contractual terms and conditions and charges.

On 23rd January Councillors were formally informed that restrictions on divulging information about the meeting were no longer relevant as the background report and supporting papers had been released on the Council’s website as the application was rejected and therefore there were no terms and conditions agreed between the Council and the Company.

I am therefore prepared to comment on the meeting, the lead up to the application and the application itself.

Mr Russ Gibson approached the Council in April 2017 as a resident of Newton Aycliffe who was interested in resurrecting the Aycliffe Show.

Mr Gibson and associates were invited to informal meetings to discuss these proposals with representatives of the Council. Mr Gibson was accompanied by associates, and two of these had experience of organising the Teesside Airshow in 2016.

Mr Gibson then agreed to make a presentation to the Recreation Committee, which took place on 6 September 2017.

Following the presentation, it was agreed that an application form be completed for the October meeting of the Recreation Committee. However, following a meeting with Council officers, it was explained that the application and supporting documents could not be prepared in the required timescale

It was then promised that an application would be made to the November meeting. No application was received.

Eventually, the application was received in January. The application was incomplete and unsigned. Nevertheless the application was analysed and presented to the Recreation Committee under the heading of Private and Confidential. (The application form, the Town Clerk’s report, the assessment of the application and the terms and conditions are all available on the Council’s website).

The application was submitted by a Private Company Limited By Guarantee, Great Aycliffe Events Ltd. This was the first indication that we would be dealing with a private limited company so the details of the company were checked with Companies House.

Great Aycliffe Events is a Private Company Limited By Guarantee, with a Company Secretary and two Directors, one of whom is Mr Russ Gibson.

The company appears to restrict its liabilities to £1. The company was founded on 17 April 2017. If we had been told that at the start of the negotiations in April 2017, we would have informed the applicants that under the regulations applying in our Council, we would be unable to supply any financial support, staff support or the use of any equipment belonging to the Council. The Council should also charge for the use of our facilities and as the company was limited to £1 liability, we would require a very large bond, up front, well before the proposed event.

The company would also have to provide evidence of a Public Liability Insurance Policy and we would also advise that they take out an insurance policy against cancellation of the event or damage to property.

Included in the application was a very good safety document, which had been prepared by a reputable company, with considerable experience in providing safety at events.

Unfortunately there was no business plan or organisational plan. Therefore many questions needed to be answered.

A major question which needed to be answered is how the event was to be financed. When the Council organised the Show, it cost in the region of £30,000. In initial discussions about funding it was indicated that support would be sought from local businesses and that it would be a ticketed event and this was indicated in the application form. However, other documents indicate that this may be a free event, depending on support or sponsorship.

The applicants believed they would attract 7,000 people to the Show (this is a much larger number than the average attendance at free shows in the past). What would happen on the day if it rained or the event had to be cancelled or curtailed? (this has happened in the past). Remember Great Aycliffe Events Ltd would only be liable for £1. There are other questions which would need to be answered regarding finance but I will go on to organisation.

The application was for the use of the fields for 3 days – one day to set up the show the day of the event, and one day to clear the site. The Council’s experience of running previous shows is that it takes 4 days to set up prior to the event depending on the elements of the show) and a day and a half to completely clear the site. In the opinion of the meeting, the application for 3 days was totally unrealistic.

In the application it is stated ‘attractions roughly include military displays – Army’. What type of displays – static, recruiting or a display of a platoon or company attack? Which units have been contacted and agreed to attend at a date sometime in July or August?

I could go on but all of the information on which the committee based its decision is on the Council website. If you are interested, visit the website and draw your own conclusions. Finally, this does not preclude the Council entering into negotiations for a similar event in the future.

Councillor Bob Fleming

Leader of the Council

Received by the Newton News. If you have a story that we may be interested in, please send to syd@newtonnews.co.uk

Pictured: Councillor Bob Fleming