Southampton boat shows cancelled over 'rising risk of Covid-19'

Video report by ITV News Meridian's Andrew Pate

Organisers of two boat shows in Southampton say they are 'desperately disappointed' after they were told the night before that their events cannot go ahead as planned.

BOATS2020 was due to kick off on Friday 11 until Sunday 20 September at Mayflower Park, which usually attracts thousands to the south coast.

However health officials at Southampton City Council told organisers on the eve of the event that it had to be cancelled due to a 'rising risk of Covid-19 and growing government fears'.

It also meant the cancellation of the Ocean Village Boat Show planned to start on Friday.

A message on the BOATS2020 website on Thursday night read: "Alongside our exhibitors, we were ready to open a super show that met all safety requirements.

However, the global pandemic and unprecedented times mean that the latest circumstances are beyond our control. Public health and safety come first and naturally we will comply with all guidance."

These people who travelled to Southampton say they are disappointed about the decision.

Southampton City Council is urging anyone who was planning to go, to not make the journey to these events.

The Conservative MP for Southampton Itchen, Royston Smith tweeted his reaction to the news.

Lesley Robinson, CEO of show co-ordinators British Marine, said they were only notified at 6.34pm on Thursday of the cancellation order.

A tremendous amount of work has been put in and it was heartening to see committed exhibitors on site getting geared up for opening. Alongside our exhibitors, we were ready to open a show that exceeded all safety requirements. We are truly perplexed as to why we are unable to run the show at least until Monday in line with the Government restrictions imposed yesterday.

Lesley Robinson, CEO of show co-ordinators British Marine

British Marine is seeking further clarification from Southampton City Council with regard to the reasons for the late notice of decision.

The organisation said it had been assured by the city Council that the event was in complete compliance with current UK Government guidelines as well as the new rules set to come into effect on Monday 14 September.

British Marine is now appealing to the Secretary of State for Public Health and the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport about the decision. 

In Southampton and the South East, we have seen a lower rate of COVID-19 transmissions since lockdown ended. However, the national picture shows a concerning rise in cases, and with these events set to attract around 20,000 people from different parts of the UK over a 10-day period, it’s important we act now to reduce the risk of infection.

Debbie Chase, Director of Public Health, Southampton City Council

Read the full statement from Southampton City Council here.