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Danson Festival pulled by Bexley Council due to 'poor ground conditions'
Bexley Council has made the shock decision to cancel this year's Danson Festival which annually attracts more than 60,000 people.
Festival-goers and park enthusiasts have expressed their surprise at the news ahead of the annual July festival.
The reason given in a council press release is because of "poor ground conditions caused by bad weather over the winter".
The festival is a family occasion for childminder Lynn Kearsey, 53, who lives in nearby Clifton Road.
The grandmother-of-three told News Shopper: "I love that weekend.
"My mum and my sisters come over from Stratford and they absolutely love it too – it’s the highlight of the year for them.
"I can’t understand what they are saying about the ground conditions."
Katie Taffs, 35, always makes sure to bring her sons Hayden and Harry Barnett, aged four and eight, to the festival.
The part time shop assistant at Bluewater said: "It seems a bit far-fetched to cancel it as it is still only April. "We come every year and the kids love it.
"All the friends we know as a family come over and make a day of it."
David Bissell, 78, former chairman of the Friends of Danson Park, said: "It's devastating news.
"I only walked around the park the other day and the ground seemed great.
"Last year there seemed to be a problem because of the rain but I can't see this being a valid reason for it to be cancelled."
Don Massey, cabinet member for community safety and leisure, told News Shopper: "Cancelling the festival has been the hardest decison I have ever had to make."
Festival-goers let Bexley Council know what they think of the decision (left to right): Lynn Kearsey, 53, Lacey Nielsen, 4, Amy Knight, 29, Katie Bridle, 37, Freya Bridle, 4, and Rohaise Nielsen, 2.
The festival has been a regular feature in the summer calendar for years and entertainment includes a fun fair, main stage with music, stalls for community groups, sports and dance displays and fundraising stalls.
Coun Massey revealed at March's full council meeting that the 2014 festival was in doubt because of the poor ground conditions.
Cory Riverside had already agreed to sponsor this year’s event, but Coun Massey said he felt forced to act, as parts of the festival site remain saturated with rainwater.
Council officers have been working with the Environment Agency and private engineers to regularly monitor the ground conditions since September.
Coun Massey said: "This is not a decision I have taken lightly and I know that many people will be disappointed.
"I decided I had to act now to protect the park and to avoid further work and expense for all those involved in the festival.
"Our commercial and voluntary sector partners have been central to the success of the festival over recent years.
"I did not want them to devote further resources to an event which had a large question mark hanging over it.
"This is one of the toughest decisions I have had to make, but I believe it is the right one.
"But the park is tired after having the festival held there for so many years and we need to think about the future for all the other people who use the park throughout the year."
Coun Don Massey said the desision to cancel the festival was the "hardest I've ever had to make."
Coun Massey said the park needs between £200,000 and £500,000 of remedial work.
He added: "Although the location and size of Danson Park lends itself to major events, the geology of the park is far from ideal.
"The subsoil is largely clay, which results in poor drainage, pooling of water on the surface and the washing away of the topsoil when there is heavy rain.
"It can be deceptive – it can look fine but it's not."
Councillors reached a decision on the long-term future of the festival earlier this year when they approved the council’s budget.
Chris Ball, leader of Bexley's Labour party, told News Shopper: "It is a huge disappointment for 10,000's of Bexley residents that the rug has been pulled from the Danson Show.
"It is frustrating that the standard of the park falls short of what is needed.
"It seems a shame not to have moved it to another large venue in the borough to allow a boost to the economy there and for people to enjoy one of the last remaining events of this kind the council put on.
"Hall Place and East Wickham Open Space are both real alternative venues but I accept it would take a lot of extra time and effort to re-arrange it to a new venue.
"We still have three months before the festival so somewhere could be found in my opinion."
The decision was that the festival will only be held in future years if the full cost can be met through external sponsorship, not by council tax payers.
This requirement had been fully met by Cory Riverside for the 2014 event.
A spokesman for sponsors Cory Riverside added: "Cory Riverside is naturally disappointed that the Danson Festival will not be taking place this year.
"However this decision is for the long term benefit of Danson Park, as stated by Bexley Council."
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