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Castle Cary Town Council severs links with Blackmore and Sparkford Vale Hunt (BSV), apologising for the “serious error” of providing facilities for the hunt on Boxing Day. 

For the last forty years, the BSV has held its Boxing Day Meet in Castle Cary, in front of the Town Hall, in the Market House. The stirrup cup – an integral part of any meet – was served from the steps of the Town Hall, and provided by an organisation called Cary 2000. But, after pressure from AAF, the Town Hall will no longer provide any facilities for the hunt.

The hunt can still meet in the town, but without the fine backdrop – and assumed support – of the Town Hall, it will look very different indeed.

Since 2019, AAF has been challenging Castle Cary Town Council about their involvement with the hunt. We wanted the Town Council to distance themselves from the hunt, and in particular, stop offering facilities on Boxing Day. They refused, saying they were “neutral” on the subject.

Because the booking for the stirrup cup wasn’t made by the hunt, the Town Council claimed it was nothing to do with them.

We campaigned in the streets of Castle Cary for the summer, autumn and winter of 2021, (when we could), and informed the locals with four rounds of leaflet drops across the town.

Then, we discovered that the Market House was not going to be available for bookings over the Christmas period as it was closed for “essential repairs”. How would Cary 2000 get round this, we wondered?

As our campaign was broader than just the stirrup cup issue, we attended the December Castle Cary Town Council Meeting and asked to speak. The hunt was there too.

A “Cary 2000” person said they used the occasion of the Boxing Day Meet to raise money for charity. Why were they at the meeting at all, if no bookings were being allowed?

Then a senior member of the BSV stood up and told several BIG LIES –  and luckily for us, they  were minuted. “The Boxing Day Meet,” he said, “is safe, legal, well-marshalled and organised in conjunction with the police.” None of that was true. In particular, the police had nothing whatsoever to do with organising the meet, something Avon and Somerset Police were keen to confirm later.

Once again, the Town Council said that they were “neutral” on the issue of the hunt and after the meeting, they published this statement:

Statement from the council

Among other things, the council said it did “not offer facilities directly or indirectly to hunt meetings.”

But at the same meeting (after we had left), the council also decided they would consider all potential Christmas bookings for the Market House “on merit”. Was this a backdoor means to allow the hunt to use the facilities for Boxing Day, despite the “essential repairs”?

Minutes for December meeting

Fortunately, we had seen this coming. On 1st December, a lady called Gail Brown emailed the council and asked to book the Market House for her dog walking event on Boxing Day. Ms Brown’s booking was refused. No questions were asked about her “merit”.

On Boxing Day 2021, the hunt showed up in the town and broke the law repeatedly. They blocked the road, used untrained, incompetent marshals to direct the traffic, rode on the pavement, put children and adults as risk, and allowed hounds to run free.

And – Cary 2000 was there, serving refreshments, from the steps of the Market House. Everyone else had to pay £3 for a cup, but the hunt – they got their mulled wine FOR FREE. We know this because we asked them on the day, and videoed their answer.

Not only had the council in fact provided facilities for the stirrup cup at the Boxing Day Meet, but they had allowed Cary 2000 to book “on merit” over and above another booking, which was refused without any consideration of merit at all.

In order to point out the law-breaking by the hunt on Boxing Day, the shocking lie the “senior member of the hunt” told on 13th December and the duplicitous booking by Cary 2000, we attended the next council meeting on 17thJanuary. The hunt wasn’t there, but two locals were; both of them also challenged the Town Council’s apparent “neutrality” by questioning the presence of Cary 2000 on Boxing Day.

Minutes for January meeting

A well-timed Freedom of Information request (not yet answered) indicated to the Council that we were well aware of the unfairness – and dishonesty – surrounding Cary 2000’s booking and the “on merit” discretionary decision.

Finally, on March 15th, I received this email:

Dear Pip

Apologies for the delay I was waiting for a reply from the hunt which hasn’t been actioned

Following the January Town Council meeting we have done the following

1.Put a statement of apology on the website https://www.castle-cary.co.uk/press-releases/

  1. Written to the hunt to ask them to apply for a road closure if they  intend to do a further event. They are to liaise with Jo Sharp at Somerset County Council who is dealing with all County road closures and hunt issues.
  2. Furthermore, we have decided to close the Market House for bookings over the Christmas period.

As you know we cannot stop the hunt meeting.
Kind regards

Judi

Judi Morison

07989 986190

Castle Cary Town Council

 

The press release called the booking to Cary 2000 as a “serious error”:

“The letting to Cary2000 was a serious error and the Council intends that any such letting will not happen again.”

So what next? Castle Cary Town Council do not have the power to ban the hunt altogether because they don’t own the pavement or the roads on which the hunt gathers. If the hunt applies for and receives a road closure, then they will have to keep away from the Market House and will not be able to give the impression that they have the council’s support by the presence of Cary 2000.

I’d ask this: why meet in Castle Cary on Boxing Day at all? Why block the road and annoy the locals?

AND – why give us – Action Against Foxhunting – such a fantastic platform from which to campaign?

Pip Donovan

16th March 2022