AS thousands of visitors descended on Appleby over the weekend Cumbria's police fire and crime commissioner saw first-hand how the event was being policed.

Every year the historic event attracts Gypsies and travellers to the town as well as thousands of visitors to the town.

By 10am on Saturday (June 8) police officers had made 67 arrests and carried out 135 stop searches on individuals as well as 65 on vehicles.

Commissioner David Allen said he felt this was "not disproportionate" considering the numbers attending the event – it is the largest event of its kind in Europe which attracts around 10,000 Gypsies and travellers as well as more than 30,000 other visitors.

On seeing how the police operation was being carried out Mr Allen said he was impressed and added: "It's fabulous and it all works."

He said Saturday was one of the busiest days and added: "In terms of policing, Appleby has always been a challenge. It’s the biggest event of its kind in Europe and demands significant police, council and other agency services during its run time."

The policing operation is divided into four distinct phases:

Preplanning for the event: which involves a lot of multi-agency planning and discussions ahead of the event;

Arrival: essentially ensuring that travellers arrive no earlier than they should and making sure that residents in the outlying villages can carry on their lives as normal;

The event from June 6 to June 10: policing the event itself and fair hill with heightened policing in the town;

Exit: making sure that Travellers leave in an orderly manner, and again that roads are kept safe and clear.

During the horse fair officers can enforce the removal of illegal encampments utilising powers under the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act and Mr Allen said: "These have been used to really good effect this year in Kirkby Stephen and the surrounding areas and we are happy that disturbance for those villages has been reduced as a result.

"This has involved lots of road safety work – cameras and patrols, including new AI assisted cameras that are better at spotting illegal use of mobile phones in vehicles etc – in the A66 area, stolen vehicle identification and work with other agencies such as the RSPCA.

"This year has seen much greater concentration on phase one than before with us concentrating on the outlying villages where travellers arrive early and park up awaiting the fields in Appleby to open up.

"This year we have seen a marked reduction in travellers at those villages as we have enforced their removal. We have also served notices on travellers who are known to cause issues informing them that they are not welcome and that if they do arrive and cause issue they will be dealt with. As a result, a number of known people have stayed away this year."

PFCC David Allen with police officers in ApplebyPFCC David Allen with police officers in Appleby (Image: Newsquest)

Mr Allen, himself a former Cumbrian police officer, said he had seen Appleby Horse Fair on a number of occasions over the years and added: "I have worked it in the past and what I have seen this year, in terms of policing, multi-agency work and its planning and preparation is nothing short of extraordinary.

"There has been a real willingness for Westmorland & Furness Council to work with us to problem solve and we have worked with the other agencies involved equally well.

"This, coupled with good planning and use of the very latest technologies has led to us being able to 'police' the event as never before. Cumbria and all of its agencies involved can be rightly proud of what they have done here."