Safety fears cancel Gloucestershire cheese rolling

The annual cheese-rolling event in Gloucestershire has been postponed because of fears that the number of spectators it attracts could become a safety concern.

cheese rolling

Organisers of the traditional event, held at Cooper’s Hill near Brockworth, said that the 15,000 spectators in 2009 exceeded the site’s capacity by three times.

cheese rolling

Richard Jefferies, one of the organisers, said: ‘A few years ago, we only had several hundred people. Last year, the police estimate was 15,000, and they reckon it’ll be even more this year, as it’s got so well known internationally.’

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The event has public-liability insurance cover for 5,000 people, and the insurance company would need to be informed if that number is exceeded.

cheese rolling

In addition, the roads were too congested for emergency-service vehicles to get to the site in the event of an accident.

Mr Jefferies said that organisers also needed to respect the concerns of local people, who had had damaged property by people climbing over fences.

The competition dates back hundreds of years, involving participants chasing 7lb Double Gloucester cheeses down a hill in a series of races.

cheese rolling

Diana Smart, 83, who makes the cheeses on her farm at Birdwood in the Forest of Dean, commented: ‘I’m shaking at the prospect of not having any cheese-rolling.

‘It’s one of our biggest fundraisers for the business, particularly this year, when we’re desperately trying to increase our premises.’

cheese rolling

Inspector Stephen Norris of Gloucestershire Constabulary said: ‘A vote was held by the Cooper’s Hill Cheese Rolling Committee on whether the 2010 event should go ahead. Their decision was to postpone it.

‘We’ll continue to advise and work with the organisers to examine what changes can be made for the event to go ahead in 2011.’

Mark Hawthorne, Gloucestershire County Councillor, added: ‘Cheese-rolling has been going on for hundreds of years, and we must ensure that this great tradition continues.’

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