Video: Great Yorkshire Show organisers left counting the cost

Organisers of the Great Yorkshire Show have been left counting the cost after taking the decision to cancel the event as torrential downpours left the show ground unsafe.

Heavy rain led bosses at the Yorkshire Agricultural Society to take the difficult but necessary decision to call off the event for today and tomorrow – the first time it has been cancelled mid-event in its history. Everyone who bought a ticket will be offered a refund or the option of using their ticket for next year’s event.

The financial loss will be absorbed by the society, with show director Bill Cowling estimating the total cost of cancelling to run to six figures “but not millions”.

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It is understood that the society’s insurance policy does not cover cancellation due to the weather.

The Great Yorkshire Show has been cancelled previously, due to the Second World War and the 2001 Foot and Mouth disease outbreak, but this marks the first time it has been cancelled due to the weather or after it had got underway. Record rainfall for the month of June, followed by torrential downpours over the weekend and during yesterday’s opening day, meant that organisers had no option but to cancel.

Mr Cowling said the decision to call the event off was “the most difficult decision I have ever had to make”.

He said: “It is heartbreaking for all concerned, our exhibitors, our visitors and, of course our staff. The decision has been made because our car parks have become too muddy to use with any safety, and the safety of our visitors has to come first.”

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He added: “Our show ground is robust and has held up well but if we cannot park cars safely then we cannot continue. The decision to cancel is a most difficult one, but it is the right one.”

Organisers had put in considerable resources prior to the show to try and counteract the rain. Park and ride facilities were set up to help transport visitors on to the Harrogate showground for the opening day and straw was laid to soak up the rain and mud. But as visitors arrived on the site they quickly began to churn the ground.

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Large swathes of the country are expected to be lashed by spells of further rainfall in the coming days as the ground remains heavily saturated and river levels teeter close to bursting point following a prolonged spell of wet weather.

The Environment Agency (EA) has seven flood warnings and 36 flood alerts in place in England and said that more are likely to be issued in the coming hours.

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Pulses of heavy rain and showers are expected to hit most parts of the UK throughout the day with some of the worst-hit areas experiencing local rainfall totals of up to 60mm, according to forecasters. Experts also predict the unsettled weather will last until at least Thursday with the threat of heavier, more prolonged rain on Thursday.

Met Office weather expert Michael Lawrence said: “Although the amounts are not that exceptional, river catchments are already very full and the ground is quite saturated so there could be problems.”

Hebden Bridge in Calderdale, West Yorkshire, was hit by flash floods on Monday with the authorities warning locals to stay indoors. Parts of the town were also left impassible by car and the local library was evacuated following a sudden downpour that brought nearly a month’s worth of rain, more than 40mm, in three hours.

The deluge came as residents continued to clear up from last month’s floods, which affected more than 500 homes and businesses in Hebden Bridge, Todmorden and Mytholmroyd.