PLANS are already underway for the 2020 Appleby Horse Fair – and a team of public bodies and travellers’ representatives point to successes last year to help them prepare.

The June fair is the largest gathering in the county, and can attract more than 10,000 visitors over its four days and it’s one of the most colourful events held in the region each year.

Keeping the event under control requires significant resources to make sure it is both safe and successful for visitors and locals.

Now a report into last year’s Appleby Horse Fair by the Multi-Agency Strategic Co-ordination Group (or MASCG) suggests the fair received a more favourable response than in 2018.

The report highlights improvements such as enforcing no-stopping points on the A685 to increase safety, and the regulation of public drinking in Appleby, Kirkby Stephen and Long Marton through Public Space Protection Orders, which the report concludes “was certainly a success”.

MASCG works with all agencies to share skills and knowledge about the fair. It has representatives from Eden and South Lakeland district councils, the county council, police, North West Ambulance Service, the RSPCA, the Environment Agency, Highways England and gypsy and traveller communities.

Matthew Neal, director of corporate services at Eden and chairman of MASCG for the 2019 fair, said in the report: “After considerable feedback after the 2018 fair, particularly from parishes and from residents of Appleby, Kirkby Stephen and outlying villages, significant changes were made in terms of the approach to communication, member representation and operational planning for the 2019 fair. This led to an increase in the amount of resources, particularly from a police perspective, that was made available for the 2019 Fair.

“While there was an element of criminal behaviour, some of it serious crime, the overall conclusion of MASCG is that its response for the 2019 fair received a distinctly more favourable response than in the previous year.”

Billy Welch, known as the Shera Rom or Head Gypsy, has been involved with the fair all his life and made a promise to his father to preserve it. He has spent more than 20 years trying to make the fair the best it can be.

“Last year’s fair was great,” he says. “It had a great atmosphere and there was only eight arrests.

“Every year we try to make it better and there are always things to tweak. We tried a lot of new ideas last year and some of them worked very well and the changes that didn’t work we were able to change them back. This year we hope to continue making improvements.”