Doncaster St Leger: 'Too soon' for crowds at horse racing festival

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The St Leger festival in Doncaster (archive photo)Image source, LDRS
Image caption,
The St Leger horse race was first run in Doncaster in 1776

People upset at plans to allow crowds at Doncaster's St Leger horse racing festival say it is "too much too soon".

The meeting is on a government list of sporting events intended to pilot the safe return of spectators after lockdown.

But some residents say reopening with large crowds could heighten coronavirus infection rates and risk lockdown again.

The town's festival is usually held over several days in September.

Chris Brodhurst-Brown, who has started a petition against the plan, said another lockdown was untenable with many in the town suffering on furlough, without income, on zero-hour contracts, and some "literally without food".

"We don't want a lockdown where those people are faced with not working again and put back in these situations," said Ms Brodhurst-Brown.

"It's just too far".

Image source, PA Media
Image caption,
Thousands now attend the event at Doncaster Racecourse every year

If the pilot meeting goes ahead between 9-12 September, the St Leger could be the country's first major horse racing meeting with large crowds since lockdown.

Some 3,640 people will be permitted entry on the Wednesday with 6,202 on the other days, the Local Democracy Reporting Service said.

"It's not about stopping people having fun, the Leger is terrific and the economy needs support but the government gives mixed messages", said Ms Brodhurst-Brown.

"The Prime Minister has said again and again about being careful with releasing lockdown and a balance with the level of infection."

Council leader Jane Cox and seven colleagues have signed a letter saying they have "reasonable reservations" about the event being held with "significant crowds", and Doncaster mayor Ros Jones has said the decision was made without council input.

Ms Jones said the risk of holding the St Leger with crowds was "too great" for the town, which has maintained relatively low infection rates, and could put Doncaster in jeopardy.

Doncaster Central MP Dame Rosie Winterton had initially wanted the racing festival to be on the government's pilot list of sporting events.

But she has now said she "strongly supports" Doncaster Council's decisions stance.

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