16 councillors sign protest letter demanding East Cambs Council rescind ban on folk festival procession through the market place

Lib Dem councillor Alison Whelan has collated signatures from 15 other councillors in protest at the

Lib Dem councillor Alison Whelan has collated signatures from 15 other councillors in protest at the decision by East Cambs Council to ban the traditional Morris and molly procession (pictured) through the market place to herald the start of the Ely Folk Festival. Chief executive John Hill (right) has been sent the protest. Picture; ARCHANT - Credit: Archant

Sixteen councillors today signed an open letter to East Cambridgeshire District Council chief executive John Hill calling on him to intervene to re-instate the traditional folk festival Morris and molly procession through the market place.

Cllr Alison Whelan collated the signatures following the revelation last night that Ely Markets - the council owned subsidiary - had banned this year's procession.

"We are shocked that after 22 years a decision has been made to ban the Morris and Molly parade through Ely Market Place," says the letter.

"A number of us have attended the parade and understand that the parade does indeed cause a degree of disruption to the normal market. However, the disruption is minor and for under an hour."

The councillors say they were "astounded that the council received complaints about this event nearly a year ago and chose not to raise them until the folk festival submitted what they must have assumed was a routine request for the parade.

"More than this, the number of people that the parade and folk festival bring into the city is significant and must be of benefit to the traders in the city, both the shops, pubs and restaurants, but also the market traders.

"At a time when city centres are in decline, surely activities which bring people into the City are the applauded rather than prevented?"

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The letter concludes: "It has been extremely disappointing that requests that the markets officer meet with the parade organisers and district councillors to discuss the matter have so far been ignored.

"Ely has an ancient and proud heritage, which can only be enhanced by such traditional events.

"We call upon the council to reconsider this, in the light of the benefits that are being brought to the city for what is only a small amount of disruption. For 22 years this event has happened, raising funds for charity."

Signatories to the letter are:

Cllr Alison Whelan

Cllr Christine Whelan

Cllr Paola Trimarco

Cllr Matt Downey

Cllr Sue Austen

Cllr Lorna Dupre

Cllr Charlotte Cane

Cllr Mark Inskip

Cllr Victoria Charlesworth

Cllr Alec Jones

Cllr Simon Harries

Cllr Gareth Wilson

Cllr John Trapp

Cllr Dian Warman

Cllr Richard Morgan

Cllr K Wilkins

East Cambs Council leader Anna Bailey tweeted: "I'm certain there is a perfectly happy compromise to be had and have asked officers to arrange a meeting to sort it out."

Festival chairman Andy Wall revealed last night that they had met with a 'flat refusal' to allow the procession through the market place.

He said the festival had offered three alternative routes "which have since offered three alternative routes which have been rejected out of hand and so far three requests for a face to face meeting have been totally ignored or refused".

He said: "We the public, through ECDC, are the owners of the market place and we should at least have a say in its management if only through the ballot box.

"However, I fear that this democratic right has been taken away from us and we now have to deal with 'faceless' bureaucrats who can make arbitrary decisions and evade questioning and accountability with impunity.

"What a sorry state for this lovely City of Ely!"