IT was on, then off, then back on and now the annual visit of the fun fair to Broad Street has finally been cancelled. Definitely.

Hampshire County Council has asserted its powers under the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Regulations) (England) (No. 3) Regulations 2020 (No. 2020/750) to prohibit the event.

The council says the fair, due to have been held this Thursday, would pose "a serious and imminent threat to public health" and help spread the virus.

It believes it would not be possible to ensure social distancing with the rides squeezed into a single thoroughfare.

Last month the county council had told John Searle Fun Fairs, the operator, that the event could not go ahead, but then relented. Simon Bryant, director of public health at the county council, told the fun fair that it did "not quite cross the threshold allowing us to issue a direction to close your operation... we remain profoundly worried about the position of the pandemic nationally and locally and you ability to keep the public safe while visiting your fair."

John Searle Fun Fairs, the operator and Alresford Town Trust who host the annual event have been asked for comment.

The event is held for one day in mid-October on Broad Street, the wide main street of the market town. This is the first time it has not been held since World War Two.

This evening in a statement Hampshire County Council’s chief executive, John Coughlan, said: “The county council has consistently provided advice to event owners and fair operators, not to go ahead with their events due to the significant concerns for public safety.

“We do not take these decisions lightly, as we understand the impact on event owners and fair operators. But our role and responsibility as a public health authority is clear at this exceptional time – we must do all we can to protect the health of people in Hampshire and do whatever we can to prevent the spread of the virus. Despite the effort of Mr Searle in trying to make Alresford Fair as COVID-secure as possible, the County Council was unconvinced that people could be sufficiently protected from the virus being transmitted – particularly when taking into account the ability to limit numbers of people attending - or to prevent individuals from different households gathering in groups of more than six. It was for these reasons, that a formal instruction has been issued not to proceed.

“Viral infection rates in Hampshire are rising – in all areas, though thankfully still not as rapidly as elsewhere in the country. We know how quickly and easily the virus can be transmitted from person to person. As the Local Authority with responsibility for safeguarding the public’s health, our first priority must, and will always be, ensuring the safety and wellbeing of Hampshire’s residents.”