HADDINGTON’S annual festival will not take place next year.

The popular week-long event has attracted thousands of people over more than 50 years.

However, the unavailability of the town’s Corn Exchange, which has acted as a hub for the event, and rising costs have meant it will not take place in 2020.

Jan Wilson, chairwoman of the town’s community council, told the Courier it was “a tough” decision.

She said: “We have no access to the Corn Exchange again next year and we felt that the Corn Exchange was our main venue.

“We also have to look at what it is going to cost for groups to run events and having to pay for halls.

“There is no way the community council could fit that bill – it would be too great.”

A fun day is still being planned for next year but it means a dramatic downscaling on the annual attraction, which usually includes everything from quizzes to ceilidhs and concerts.

Mrs Wilson said: “It is a sad state of affairs. The festival started in 1968 and I am not saying it is never going to start up again but for the following year we will have to look very closely at what we do and for the year after when the Corn Exchange is finished.”

Mrs Wilson added that the unavailability of the Corn Exchange was also likely to have an impact on the town’s festive programme.

She stressed rising costs were not an issue specific to Haddington but the whole of East Lothian, with galas and Christmas light switch-on events likely to be affected.

She said: “The Christmas fun day will not happen either because the Corn Exchange is not available.

“I don’t know if we can get the Christmas tree up there – there could be scaffolding outside.

“We have got a meeting and we are going to have to think about where we are going to put the tree for a start. I don’t know if the space is still available at the front of Haddington Town House.”

Councillor Tom Trotter, ward member, described the festival not happening as “a tragedy”.

He said: “I understand where the community council is coming from but it is a big blow to the community, who have turned out year on year to this event.

“[East Lothian Council’s] policy and performance review committee has asked for a paper to come back and we are looking into these costs to the community, which is not a promise that anything can be done.

“It is not just the Haddington Festival but lots of community groups.

“Hopefully, we will be able to do something but the cancellation of the Haddington Festival is not good news.

“It is a time of the year a lot of local people look forward to – it’s tragic that it is not going to happen.

“The problem is that once these things are gone they never come back – that would be an absolute tragedy.”

Ward colleague Craig Hoy described the cancellation as “a real pity for Haddington”.

He said: “I marshalled the parade for the festival this year and saw just how much it means to local residents and their families.

“I think it’s deeply unfair that East Lothian Council is asking community groups to pay inflated prices for event licences and for temporary road closure orders.

“Our community volunteers are local heroes who give their time freely and willingly and it’s a real shame to see their events being cancelled. Regardless of the cost pressures facing the council, it shouldn’t be charging local charities and community councils these very high fees.”

Provost John McMillan, ward councillor, said he was “disappointed because it is something that is important”. “I’m hoping that maybe Haddstock might comeback and I hope other things will replace it,” he added.