Licence wrangle halts charity parade

ORGANISERS of a charity motorcycle cavalcade last night said they were devastated after being forced to call time on the event because of a last-minute ruling by Norfolk police.

ORGANISERS of a charity motorcycle cavalcade last night said they were devastated after being forced to call time on the event because of a last-minute ruling by Norfolk police.

This year's Eastern Lights Motorcycle Cavalcade, from Norwich to Lowestoft via Yarmouth, was due to take place on July 26 but the event has been cancelled after organisers were given a licence deadline that was impossible to meet. Organisers say they are now planning to shelve the event for good.

Event officials say they were informed late last Friday - just three weeks before the ride - that police would withdraw their cover for the cavalcade if a temporary road closure license was not obtained. They were also told that the licence would take eight weeks for Norfolk County Council to process, making it impossible to achieve.

It is the third time this week that Norfolk police have come under fire and comes in the wake of a scarecrow in Brancaster being removed for sending out an “inappropriate” message and the original Chitty Chitty Bang Bang being withdrawn from the Lord Mayor of Norwich's Street Procession because it does not have a valid MoT.

Eastern Lights organising committee chairman, Paul Howard, said: “It now is with regret that our event will have to be cancelled because it does not have a temporary road closure licence.

“Speaking to various people about this situation, all are appalled at the way this has been implemented without a period of grace before notice. To offer us a solution which is unachievable due to the time restraint is so unfair.”

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Mr Howard said that he and his committee of eight had spent many hours working on the event and were devastated by the decision.

He said that he understood from the council that any successful application for a licence along the route would attract an initial standard fee of �850 plus individual fees for each road to be closed off.

Mr Howard said the major losers would be James Paget University Hospital accident and emergency unit which has benefited from �45,000 in the past eight years, and warned that the move could have huge consequences for other event and charity organisers.

Superintendent Carl Edwards of Norfolk police said: “I am arranging a meeting with the cavalcade's organisers to discuss this issue further.

“The Constabulary does not have the legal authority to escort charity groups through red lights in non-emergency situations. We have not cancelled this event - we would allow it to go ahead provided it complied with road traffic legislation. We have suggested potential alternatives to the organisers which include road closure legislation co-ordinated by Norfolk County Council.

“The Constabulary supports small charities and their fundraising events however, larger charities have a duty of care to ensure they are compliant with all regulations”.

A Norfolk County Council spokesman said it was disappointed at the decision to cancel the cavalcade, adding: “When the future of this year's event came into question, we took urgent steps to see if there was any way the necessary legal requirements could be met to allow the cavalcade to proceed as before. Unfortunately, there was simply too little time to process the necessary orders, mainly because there is no flexibility in the minimum time that must be allowed for people to respond to advertisement of the draft orders.”

On a brighter note, Mr Howard said that organisers would be happy to see bikers who wish to travel to Royal Green, Lowestoft, on July 26 for a free get together one last time.

Organisers also want to assure riders who have paid and offered to donate their fee that this will be handed to the hospital.

A refund form is available on the website , or refunds will be offered to those applying in person on July 26.