THE future of a popular community bonfire event in Dorchester could be in jeopardy – unless residents step forward to formally organise it.

Town councillors heard concerns on Tuesday evening about the £1,500 cost, and the risks, of the annual Elizabeth Place bonfire.

The council has not formally acknowledged the annual bonfire, so it remains unauthorised, although each year council staff remove dangerous items from the fire including gas cylinders and even washing machines. It also pays to clear up the ashes and restore the playing field. A bill which last year amounted to just short of £1,500 - £900 of it in waste disposal charges.

Several councillors said at the management committee suggested that a committee of residents could take on responsibility for the bonfire.

A report to the committee from deputy town clerk Steve Newman said that the Elizabeth Place bonfire has been held for many years on a grassed play area owned by the town council.

“Unscrupulous traders and individuals use the site to dump materials which should never be included in a bonfire, in some cases materials which could be dangerous,” said Mr Newman in his report. He said these had included fridges, freezers, ovens, sofas, car tyres, gas cylinders and even a large rubber dinghy – all of which were removed by town council staff to keep the public safe.

He also told the committee that there had been complaints to both the fire service and environmental health about the smoke from the fire and the fire brigade had been called out to damp it down.

“The bonfire has been a traditional community event for many years and is undoubtably well liked by some local residents but, at present, no local group has come forward to manage the event. In the absence of such a group the bonfire remains an unauthorised event on council land and will continue to be treated as such.”

He said he believed that any attempts to stop the bonfire would just lead to ill-feeling and was likely to be impossible to achieve unless the area was fenced off and security staff were hired 24-hours a day to prevent items being dumped.

Cllr Rory Major said he was in favour of the council getting involved : “If we can’t stop it why not make it a bigger event, a community event support by the town council.?

Said Cllr Molly Rennie: “We would get a lot of stick if we tried to stop it…perhaps this is the year to try and encourage the people who asked us not to build houses there to get involved and organise the event.”

Cllr Les Fry called on residents to step forward and make sure the bonfire was run safely: “It is expensive for us to have it there, maybe a community group will come forward and help,” he said