IT'S off! No, it's on!

The funfair in Alresford has been on a rollercoaster ride and is set to return to the market town on Thursday October 15 after civic chiefs reversed their stance on whether it could go ahead.

The annual event had been cancelled after civic chiefs said the risk to public health was too great.

The fair is held every October in Broad Street, closing the road to through traffic for a day. It was due to be held on Thursday October 15 and usually attract thousands of people.

But yesterday the fun fair operator John Searle Fun Fairs and the hosts, Alresford Town Trust, were told that the city and county councils were not at the stage stopping the event.

Simon Bryant, director of public health at Hampshire County Council, in a letter to Mr Searle, said he had after all decided not to ban the fun fair, saying that although he did not want it to go ahead it did "not quite cross the threshold allowing us to issue a direction to close your operation."

The letter states: "I understand and appreciate the considerable lengths to which you have gone to make your fair as COVID-secure as possible, and I do appreciate the business implications for you and other funfair operators should your event not go ahead. However despite this, as the Public Health Authority for this area, we remain profoundly worried about the position of the pandemic nationally and locally and your ability to keep the public safe while visiting your fair. These concerns relate to all events at which large numbers of people may potentially gather and mingle and where they will be making shared contact with equipment such as your fair rides.

"Viral infection rates in Hampshire are rising – across the county – and despite the very best efforts of event organisers, the virus transmits quickly and easily from person to person.

"While new powers have been given to local authorities to direct event organisers to close, following careful consideration, and for all of our legitimate concerns and our strong preference that you should not operate, we have concluded at this stage that our concerns do not quite cross the threshold allowing us to issue a direction to close your operation. We will not, at this stage, be using them in relation to your event but we will keep that position under constant review during your operation in Hampshire. Our strong preference is that you heed the advice we have provided and that you voluntarily decide not to go ahead. However, should you choose to continue with the event, it is critical that you adhere at all times to the strictest public health safety secure measures."

Mr Searle said: "We are very pleased this as been turned around. Alresford is a chartered fair going back many generations and I have been attending this fair all my life.

"Everything is now sorted and the funfair will be going ahead on Thursday 15th October from 3pm. It will be great to see the children and teenagers will smile on their faces again."

Initially Mr Searle had been told has been told by the city council that it cannot go ahead in the light of the increase in coronavirus cases.

Abigail Toms, city council environmental protection manager, said the risk was too great.

Ms Toms wrote: “As you will have noted from the Government broadcasts at the beginning of the week, the spread of the Covid-19 virus appears to be again on the increase and the direction of travel is generally not favourable towards events right now.

“The advice of our colleagues at Hampshire County Council Public Health is that all funfairs in Hampshire should cease operating and that funfairs due to commence operation should not go ahead.

“This is because (this is lifted directly from their correspondence with us):

1. The incidence of Covid19 in the community has continued to increase Nationally and in Hampshire.

2.The Chief Medical Officer announced that the National Alert Level has been raised to Level 4, which means that transmission of Covid19 in the community is ‘high or rising exponentially: enforced social distancing’.

3. HM Government has issued, and continues to issue, new guidelines on social gatherings with the objective of reducing exposure and onward spread of infection. This includes the ‘rule of 6’, which cannot be practically enforced at a fun-fair.

4. Given that a family unit (persons, both young and old) will attend such settings this adds a further dimension to the opportunity and consequence of onward infection.

“The decision has been taken in order to control onward infection to those in (and beyond) Hampshire. I am sorry to be the bearer of bad news and recognise that this will come as a huge disappointment to you, but the county’s advice is that funfairs should not be operating right now because the risk of transmission is too great. The city council can not therefore support your event.”

The county council and Alresford Town Trust have been asked to comment.