Newtonian Russ Gibson insists Aycliffe Council’s appraisal of his application to relaunch the Great Aycliffe Show was “riddled with inaccuracies”.
Aycliffe’s town clerk Andrew Bailey assassinated Mr Gibson’s proposal to bring back the once popular Aycliffe show he wanted to scrap four years ago, in favour of a miserably failing Aycliffe Festival.
In Mr Bailey’s appraisal – which was recited virtually chapter-and-verse into a statement read out by Councillor Jed Hillary during Wednesday night’s full council meeting – the standout concerns were:
• The application was not competent.
• At no point was the council aware it was dealing with a limited company.
• The council stood to “lose revenue” from a Sports Complex and golf course which already cost Aycliffe tax-payers hundreds of thousands of pounds a year.
• It takes four days to prepare for and clear away after a show (the application estimated three days).
Councillors voted to accept the recreation committee’s decision to reject the application on Wednesday night, despite a passionate appeal from independent councillor Arun Chandran to at least allow the organisers to go back and try again.
Full council’s ratification means the proposal can’t be considered again for six months – effectively ending hopes of a 2018 revival.
Mr Gibson, who initially started his campaign to relaunch the show in April 2017, said: “Of course, we’re disappointed with the outcome, and we thank Councillor Arun Chandran and his independent colleagues for supporting us.
“But it’s even more disappointing, and alarming, that this decision was effectively made by a handful of Labour councillors behind closed doors during their Aycliffe Labour Group meetings, without giving any thought to their residents.
“What is also really concerning is Andrew Bailey’s appraisal – and Jed Hilary’s subsequent report during Wednesday night’s meeting – which was riddled with inaccuracies and factual errors.
“We sat down with Andrew Bailey on October 2, away from the Recreation Committee, and discussed in great detail the potential show, and what we’d need to do.
“We recognised then that our inexperience of organising large-scale events would be a major concern, which is why we employed a reputable events management company to produce a safety report for us.
“Yet the majority of the issues raised in his appraisal came as news to me – he never highlighted many of these concerns before we submitted our application or during our discussions.
“Andrew Bailey has also known since day one that he was dealing with a limited company – not once did he raise this as a concern, and not once did he tell me this would mean the press and public (including myself) would be exempt from its discussions in the committee meeting.
“Overall the general handling of this has not been good. We’re volunteers, we have put hundreds of hours of our own voluntary time into this project – but not once does Andrew Bailey, as a very well-paid council officer, make any reference to this or give us any credit for trying to do something for the good of Newton Aycliffe.
“We’re deflated, and we may have lost the battle on this occasion, but we haven’t lost the war yet – this isn’t the end as far as we’re concerned.”