Red fox standing in snow, looking at the camera.

Somerset County Council using emergency powers to help hunt parades

Somerset County Council (SCC) will use powers meant for emergency roadworks to help Boxing Day hunt parades go ahead this year. The revelation broke on 14 December after Action Against Foxhunting (AAF) met with SCC’s highways officer.

AAF told Protect the Wild that the Blackmore and Sparkford Vale Hunt, Cotley Harriers and Seavington Foxhounds will go ahead with their Boxing Day parades in Castle Cary, Chard and Crewkerne respectively.

These parades see the hunt and its riders take their packs of hounds through the streets in the centre of town. Despite the hunt occupying much of the roads and their supporters taking up the pavements, the parades have traditionally taken place without official event or road closure applications.

Pip Donovan of AAF told SCC in a meeting on 23 November that, when observing the Blackmore and Sparkford Vale Hunt during its 2021 Boxing Day parade:

the hunt obstructed the highway, illegally used marshals to direct traffic, rode horses the wrong way up a one-way street, brought unreliable horses to the meet, and allowed their dogs to run free amongst children and all over the road.

Similar things were recorded by another AAF monitor at the Cotley Harriers’ Chard parade.

Mounted field riders with the Blackmore and Sparkford Vale Hunt gather in a town centre.
Blackmore and Sparkford Vale Hunt in Castle Cary on Boxing Day 2021, via AAF.

As a result of these incidents, Donovan said SCC had told one town council that hunts would need proper road closures for their 2022 Boxing Day parades.

Emergency order to protect the public

No closures had been agreed by the 23 November, though. Responding to Donovan, councillor Mike Rigby said that SCC had “now… received positive engagement” from hunts it had written to. And that the council was working with the hunts to ensure “any necessary road closures are obtained”.

It appears that SCC will use emergency road closure powers to facilitate the parades. SCC will use Section 14(2) of the Road Traffic Regulation Act. According to SCC’s guidance notes on traffic restriction, S14(2) is for situations presenting “danger to the public or damage to the road”. Examples it gives include gas leaks, burst water mains, and undermining of the highway. The guidance notes also state that:

The promoter will inform the authority as soon as they are aware of the need for a closure or restriction, even if the work requiring the closure will not start immediately.

Donovan pointed out to SCC during the 23 November meeting that the deadline for Boxing Day road closures had passed without hunts having notified the council. This is despite hunts holding Boxing Day parades annually on the same date. AAF told Protect the Wild that such predictability meant the road closure should have gone through Section 16A. However, this requires a three-month advanced application. One additional effect of granting a S14(2) road closure to the hunts is that these are significantly cheaper than their S16A counterparts.

Furthermore, AAF said it is now:

too late for any of the hunts to be involved in Safety Advisory Group meetings, so these dangerous events have had no official safety scrutiny.

A yellow banner with the Action Against Foxhunting logo on the left and the slogan
An Action Against Foxhunting banner, via AAF.

Responding to the news, Rob Pownall of Protect the Wild said:

Just when you think things couldn’t get any more ridiculous we hear that emergency powers are being used to facilitate hunt parades through town centres. It’s beyond a joke. If you needed yet more evidence of there being one rule for hunts and one rule for everyone else then here it is.

Protect the Wild has contacted SCC for comment.


AAF told Protect the Wild that it had engaged with SCC throughout 2022 in order to ensure the safety and proper procedure of the Boxing Day events. Meanwhile, the hunts chose not to engage despite knowing about the event a year – or, realistically, years – in advance. And for all the anti-hunt group’s hard work, SCC snubbed AAF less than two weeks before the parades will take place.

Instead, the council appears to have thrown its hands in the air and accepted that hunt parades are worth facilitating with emergency legislation. “We are furious,” AAF said.

Furious too? Please sign our joint letter Somerset County Council: reverse decision to enable hunt parades‘ and check out Action Against Foxhunting to learn more and help out.