Tuby’s Funfairs, which has roots in the town dating back more than a century, had hoped to return this week after months of being closed due to the coronavirus crisis.
The company has already missed what would be the busiest time of the year, with the season starting in March - when the country came under lockdown and large gatherings of people were prohibited.
And, despite fairs being allowed to operate in other areas of Yorkshire, such as Sheffield, operator Mike Tuby said ‘obstacles’ put in place by Barnsley Council seemed to be a deliberate attempt to stop events going ahead in the borough. Initial conversations had been productive, Mike said, with staff planning one-way systems, and making hand sanitiser available on rides - which would also be regularly cleaned on a schedule.
Mike submitted these plans to the council - which he said retorted with increasingly stringent measures, including checking punters’ temperatures on arrival and then later during their stay to account for any changes due to ‘exertion’.
“Bars, restaurants, and swimming baths have all been allowed to open - the only thing not on the list is fairs,” Mike, 41, told the Chronicle.
“We’ve sent our proposals. We can reduce numbers by two-thirds, including staff, but it still doesn’t seem to be good enough.
“If we need to do more social distancing, we’re happy to work with the council.
“I’ve always dealt with Barnsley Council and that’s who I want to deal with.
“They’re not saying we can’t operate, but they’re putting that much paperwork in front of us that it’s almost impossible.
“They’ve not really explained why an outdoor fairground poses a higher risk than a bar, or a restaurant, or a swimming pool.
“I think it’s because there aren’t as many fairgrounds to put up a fight - imagine if they said they were going to keep the market closed for no reason.
“There would rightly be uproar from traders.”
Historically, Mike’s family owned land in Wombwell and Hoyland but has since turned to using council-owned sites.
A fair had been planned to open on Grange Lane on Tuesday - but due to the red tape Mike said planning and promoting the event ‘wasn’t going to work’.
His next meeting with the council is later this month, and Mike’s hands are tied until then.
“What I’ve read in the proposals would probably be enough to put on Glastonbury,” he added.
“They’re suggesting we have an operational handbook - for a funfair.
“There’s also a traffic management plan.
“Does anywhere else have to take people’s temperatures?”
The firm has used the government’s Self-Employment Income Support Scheme to pay its expenses, but has had no other financial support since March.
“When furlough stops, and we’re still closed, what do we do?” Mike said.
“This is my livelihood, and my family’s livelihood.
“It’s what we’ve always done, it’s a long family history - it would be a shame to see it go.
“The season starts in March, so it’s already had a massive impact on us.
“It could continue for 12 months - that’s a scary thought.”
Barnsley’s director of public health, Julia Burrows, said: “Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, our priority has been ensuring the safety of our residents.
“The virus is still very much out there, and although Barnsley is no longer an area of concern, like many areas of the UK, we’ve seen numbers creep up in some places around the borough.
“Things can change quickly, and we must do all that we can to reduce the transmission of the virus and protect lives.
“We’ve been in contact with the organiser of Tuby’s Funfairs.
“They have offered to submit a detailed plan to show how transmission risks could be mitigated and this will be considered by the council’s events safety advisory group.
“We’ll continue to review the latest evidence and our decisions will be based on the best science available.”