BATTEL Bonfire Boyes considered “all the possible alternative sites” before taking the drastic decision to cancel this year’s main bonfire and fireworks display.
BBB chairman, Hannah Thomas, said the group had no other option but to scale back tomorrow’s (Saturday’s) event due to the poor condition of the 1066 battlefield, where the bonfire is traditionally held.
Hannah thanked the emergency services, Battle town clerk Peter Mills, Mayor Richard Bye, traders and well-wishers for their support.
She acknowledged the decision to cancel the bonfire could have a negative knock-on effect on local businesses, but added that she hoped some of the large events the Boyes staged throughout the year would have helped to relieve some of the pressure on traders.
She said: “It has been hard to ignore the almost constant questions about why the bonfire isn’t going to be on the battlefield because of ‘a bit of mud’ or why it hasn’t ‘just’ moved to an alternative site. Everyone seems to have an opinion about our bonfire.
“We have considered all the possible alternative sites within the town. If we had another suitable site available this year we would, of course, have used it. Every site presents its own benefits and challenges. We have been using the battlefield for over ten years and still it takes a year of planning meetings, site visits and agreement with all the emergency services to safely get everyone on and off the field. In the same way that the re-enactment has taken place for 20 years and this is the first time English Heritage has had to close the battlefield this is the first time since 1995 that we have had to resort to plan B. We have received kind offers of alternative sites but with less than two weeks to do what normally takes all year we can only take these into consideration for next year.”
The Boyes will keep up the tradition of having a smaller bonfire on the Abbey Green, with a shorter torch lit procession.
Hannah said due to boarders at Battle Abbey School and for the protection of Battle Abbey, “we haven’t quite been able to return to the old days of fireworks from the Abbey Gatehouse.”
Road closures will remain in place from 6pm-midnight, with no vehicular access to the High Street, Powdermill Lane or Station Road. No parking is allowed on the procession route and vehicles left in the no parking areas will be removed.
The Green may become crowded and the event and will be noisy, smoky and not suitable for the very young and people of a nervous disposition.
Everyone is asked to listen to and follow safety announcements.
A charity collection will take place on the night.