Director of Public Health tells people not to come to Southampton

Edit: The Ocean Village Boat Show has now been called off completely 14.50 11/09/2020

The Ocean Village Boat Show has been cancelled for today, and BOATS2020 in its entirety. Southampton City Council is deploying officers into the boat show areas ‘to engage with the public and help explain the direction that has been issued’.

Debbie Chase, Director of Public Health, Southampton City Council, is instructing those who had booked tickets and appointments not to come.

The shocking decision was taken late yesterday as both shows were ready to welcome visitors this morning.

“The decision, while regrettable,” Chase says, “has been made after detailed analysis of the public health risks and discussions with our colleagues in the city, including the police.

“The event organisers have also worked incredibly hard to risk assess their activities and implement a range of safety measures. So, I’m very sorry to disappoint them and everyone who was looking forward to attending these events.”

The organisers of both shows, MDL and British Marine, are devastated that this situation has arisen, given they’ve both worked closely with the council over the past few months, especially as Southampton City Council has stated that it expected 20,000 people to attend.

According to British Marine, BOATS2020 was capped by the council  at 15,000 over ten days for the ‘huge area’ that is Mayflower Park – and that number was to include exhibitor and British Marine teams. However, when the council decided to stop the event going ahead, the actual number of allocated tickets was around fifty per cent of that total. Previous iterations of the Southampton International Boat Show have attracted circa 100,000.

Similarly, Ocean Village Boat Show was limited to a total ten day capacity of 5,000, with MDL only allowing 200 max on the pontoons at any given time – including staff – the company says. Given the way the appointment system was structured with cautious limitations, Ocean Village Boat Show was actually expecting around 2,000 over the ten day period, a fact that the council was made aware of. The show’s cancelled for today, with further announcements expected later.

“I’m pretty raw,” says Will Reed, principal of the Boat Building Academy who was exhibiting in Mayflower Park. “We’ve invested time and money, and taken people off furlough to come and work at the show – hotels, printing, wages – it all adds up. The council should have made a strong decision much earlier.”

Chase cites the spread of Covid-19 nationally as the main factor in the last-minute decision.

“Due to the increased spread of Covid-19 nationally, and the need for stronger control measures to reduce transmission both in Southampton and across the country, we unfortunately cannot allow the Ocean Village Boat Show 2020 and BOATS2020 to take place this month.

“We have therefore issued a Direction under Regulation 5(1) of the Health Protection Regulations 2020 prohibiting these events from taking place.

“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.”

Phil Dollin, director of Inspiration Marine Group and sponsor of Ocean Village Boat Show, is taking a pragmatic approach. “We’re moving our boats back to Hamble Point Marina,” he says. “Basically, we’ll carry out viewings as we would in our normal course of ‘covid-safe’ business.

“It is what it is. It’s a shame the council didn’t so it sooner and it also seems a little bit odd considering that the new measures don’t take place until Monday. But we’re going to make the best of it.”

Likewise, Fairline has moved its five boats from BOATS2020 to its local dealer in Swanwick Marina. Here the company plans to reschedule all of its sales appointments and meetings.

“We are deeply saddened by the cancellation of BOATS 2020 at such short notice,” says a spokesperson. “It was shaping up to be a great alternative to the usual Southampton Boat Show, albeit on a smaller scale.

“Our diary was full of appointments with serious boat buyers wanting to check out our range. We are now encouraging those attendees to visit us at Swanwick Marina, where we have all of the boats on display in a Covid-19 secure environment.”

Numbers like these were not expected at either event

Cllr Satvir Kaur, cabinet member for homes and culture, told the Daily Echo that the decision was taken with ‘a heavy heart’.

“However, it would simply be irresponsible to ignore expert advice of our health professionals at this time,” she says.

But opposition leader Cllr Dan Fitzhenry describes it as a ‘blow for the city’.

“Whilst I understand the natural concern for public health, on the information I have been shared I believe that a more balanced decision could have been made,” he told the Daily Echo.

2 responses to “Director of Public Health tells people not to come to Southampton”

  1. James Turner says:

    Cancellation of the Southampton Show at the 11th hour is ridiculous. A small number of people spread over a very large area, largely outside. Pathetic! It’s not a social gathering. For many it’s a lifeline to business survival over the winter.

    I hope the show organisers change the event location for next year. Let’s have it in Portsmouth. Many people will not want to risk being shafted at the last minute like this again.

  2. David Baker says:

    Vendors exhibiting at these events have already spent a great deal of money to do so. The decision to cancel the night before is, at best, irresponsible and unacceptable. Southampton City Council should be required to refund each exhibitor’s expenses to date. They can explain it to taxpayers as the cost of their own inability to act professionally and make a decision in a reasonable amount of time. Absolutely outrageous behaviour.