Harrogate charity's plea over 'mountain of red tape'

Volunteers from Friends of Valley Gardens.
Volunteers from Friends of Valley Gardens.

The Friends of Valley Gardens is calling on more help to be given to community groups holding worthy public events in the face of what they say is a "mountain of paperwork."

Last week the Harrogate Advertiser reported how unpaid volunteers behind charity events like Happygate and The Big Picnic were feeling the strain organising public events with increased security concerns and form filling.

Jane Blayney, chairman of Friends of Valley Gardens, is calling for more help from Harrogate Borough Council in a constructive manner.

Among the group's suggestions are:

A ‘time scaled’, fully comprehensive generic procedure reference leaflet could be produced of all potential requirements for all major public events organised by volunteers.

To this leaflet could be added relevant contact information. For example, the business focused-counter terrorism-awareness initiative.

Community groups events should be publicised on Harrogate Borough Council's website to help attract interest.

Jane Blayney said: "Organising community events such as 1940s Day is a time demanding procedure, especially with a limited supply of volunteers.

"There is an increasing volume and detail in paper work needed for community events and for regulations, with which they must comply.

"A set procedure in a new form would save many telephone calls to busy council officers."

Coun Mike Chambers, Harrogate Borough Council’s Ccabinet member for housing and safer communities said: “A number of high profile incidents have occurred both in the UK and abroad recently which have resulted in the loss of life or serious injury.

"It is paramount that we do all we can to ensure our community is protected and that organised events are held in a safe and secure environment.

“There is now an increased focus on the security arrangements that are in place for community events and the council is currently reviewing our event management procedures in the wake of these recent tragedies.

"We appreciate the views of organisations such as the Friends of Valley Gardens and will consider their suggestions as to how we can improve this process."

He said community groups had a duty to help in the battle for increased security.

Coun Chambers said: “Event organisers have a responsibility to fully consider the safety of the public when they are planning an event.

"Whilst we understand that this may result in increased paperwork, we feel that this it is necessary. We must do all we can to protect the public.

"A number of events in our district occur on an annual basis and, as such, the event documentation should only need to be reviewed rather than rewriting.

"There is no one size fits all for event management plans, but the council does provide guidance on its website.

"Organisers can speak with our relevant officers and they can also contact the safety advisory group which provides advice on how events can be held in a safe environment."

But the end result of the unavoidable realities of the current era's security situation leave community groups struggling

Jane Blayney said: "The dates for return of all the Friends of the Valley Garden' mountain of paper work and related documents was verbally requested earlier this year, with only a few days’ notice for completion.

"Our social life went on hold for a few days and we complied. These misunderstandings could be avoided with a schedule leaflet.

"It's time to show that the council and the community groups are working together to make Harrogate a desirable place both to live in and visit from all perspectives."