Dodgems are bumped out of this year’s Stevenage Charter Fair after pub refit left them too little room

Chief steward of the fair Victor Harris with Stevenage MP Stephen McPartland. Credit: Hugh Madgin

Chief steward of the fair Victor Harris with Stevenage MP Stephen McPartland. Credit: Hugh Madgin - Credit: Archant

Anyone hoping to spend an evening crashing about on Stevenage Charter Fair’s dodgems went away disappointed this week.

The Standing Order pub in Stevenage High Street.

The Standing Order pub in Stevenage High Street. - Credit: Archant

A brick wall built outside The Standing Order pub as part of a refit this summer meant that there was no space in the High Street to place the 60ft by 40ft ride.

The fair’s chief steward Victor Harris said: “It has had an effect on the fair. Everybody likes dodgems because it’s a family ride. You can take the kids on it and everyone enjoys driving around and crashing into each other.

“They have had dodgems here for years, at one point we even had two separate rides.”

The Wetherspoons pub previously had metal railings outside it, which were removed every time the fair came.

The Standing Order pub.

The Standing Order pub. - Credit: Archant

This arrangement had worked well since the former bank was turned into a pub more than 10 years ago.

But the summer facelift saw the railings replaced with a brick wall.

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Victor knew nothing about it until a fortnight ago and is now consulting with the Showman’s Guild and his solicitors about what to do.

He said: “I hope we can resolve it. We will have to wait and see what they say and then make a decision on it. If we find that something has gone wrong then the wall will have to come down.”

The planning application was submitted to Stevenage Borough Council, which sent it out to Herts County Council’s highways authority which has responsibility for the fair. The authority did not raise any objections when the application was submitted in January despite it potentially breaking the fair’s ancient rights to be held in the High Street which go back to 1223.

The application was approved by the borough council in March and the work went ahead.

The town’s MP Stephen McPartland is working with traders to resolve the problem. He said: “The dodgems are a huge attraction and an important part of the fair, which is very well supported.

“I enjoy attending the charter fair with many others and this is disappointing.

“I am surprised the wall was erected if it transgresses any ancient rights to location of the fair and would expect enforcement action to be taken. I am already in contact with Wetherspoons about their closure and locking of gates across what my constituents believe is a right of way. I am working with local people to identify the necessary documentary evidence to resolve this issue, too.”

A County Hall spokesman said: “We have some concerns that the works on the highway in front of the pub have been undertaken without the separate agreement of Herts County Council in its role as highways authority. We will be inspecting the work and consulting with Stevenage Borough Council to clarify the terms under which permission was granted.”

A spokesman for Wetherspoons said: “We submitted plans for the refurbishment of the pub, which included replacing the old metal railings with a brick wall. This was simply to improve the appearance of our premises.

“Our plans were approved by the planning department. The only thing they objected to was the lights on the top of the wall which were then changed.

“The planning department made no mention of any possible restriction on the fair and were happy to permit us to proceed.

“We have no knowledge of any ancient right – and presumably nor did the council when they approved our planning application.

“We have no objection to the fair generally and are happy to work with the organisers in future.”