Red tape forces Sheffield gala organisers to cancel donkey rides

Donkey handler Jake Taylor with the unemployed donkeys
Donkey handler Jake Taylor with the unemployed donkeys
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Scores of youngsters were left disappointed after council red tape forced a community fete to cancel its annual donkey rides.

Organisers of last weekend’s Beighton Gala have branded the law an ass after Sheffield Council officials told them they needed a special ‘riding establishment’ licence to offer the rides - just 48 hours before the event.

Gala organiser Steve Edmonds told The Star: “Our donkey ride provider has been in business for 30 years and has never heard of it. It’s just crazy, it’s bureaucracy gone mad.

“We were told this was needed to ensure the kids had the right riding helmets - I can’t remember ever seeing a child wearing a helmet while riding a donkey on the beach.

“I asked what would happen if we went ahead with the rides and the council said they would come up to the field and close them down.

“I’m very frustrated the council left it until the last minute to tell us.”

Doncaster-based ride provider George Smith, who has worked in the business for donkey’s years, was told he would need three licences to run the rides.

He already had public liability insurance and a beach licence for the animals and has now applied for the £125 riding establishment licence.

Mr Smith said: “I’ve been doing events in Sheffield for over nine years and I have never heard of it before.

“I just can’t work out why you need a riding school licence for a one day gala when you are straight in and out.”

Mr Edmonds said the gala had been advertised for a month, but council officers only got in touch two days before the event.

Fellow organiser Tracey Higginbottom added: “It was a bombshell.

“There were a lot of disappointed faces.

“Children come to our event for the donkey rides, candyfloss and a fair and it is a highlight of the year because we don’t get much in Beighton.”

The Star understands the Riding Establishment licence is not required elsewhere in the country.

Sheffield Council said the Riding Establishments Act 1964 states that people providing horse and donkey rides must have ‘appropriate licences’ whether at events or in riding schools.

Such licences ensured the safety of riders, made sure children wore helmets and the welfare of animals was prioritised.

A Sheffield Council spokesman said it was not a new requirement or introduced by the council

He added: “This is the first year we were aware the organisers of the gala were offering donkey rides.

“We proactively contacted them to recommend they check the person running the attraction had the appropriate licence. Unfortunately this wasn’t the case.

“We absolutely did not tell them that they could not have donkeys.

“The council simply made them aware of what the law requires to protect children and donkeys.

“The organisers themselves decided not to offer donkey rides, which we think is a shame when the licenses can be very easily and speedily obtained.

“Our staff would have been very happy to help complete the simple form, had this been required.

“We hope that the organisers change their mind and secure a license in future years.”