ESSEX Police have said they are "disappointed" with criticism after they allowed an illegal horse trotting event to take place at the weekend.

The force had initially planned to use powers granted under a dispersal order to prevent the event taking place at The Manorway, in Corringham.

But, due to the large amount of people who attended, police decided it would be a risk to public safety to enforce the order.

An Essex Police spokesman said: "This decision followed a full assessment by highly trained and experienced public order trained senior officers who were at the scene.

"Instead Essex Police engaged with the people taking part to ensure the events took place smoothly and safely for all concerned.

"An enforced banning of the event would have resulted in its being held elsewhere which would have increased the risk to public safety.

"When policing these types of events officers have to remain open to using different methods to ensure the safety of all those concerned."

Essex Police came in for heavy criticism on social media for failing to enforce the dispersal order.

Supt Andy Mariner, Superintendent for West Essex, said: “We appreciate that local residents and local councillors were concerned. We did everything we could to ensure this event passed with minimal disruption.”

Chief Supt Tracy Hawkings, Essex Police’s Gold Commander for the weekend, said: “It is disappointing that Essex Police has faced criticism this weekend as to how we policed this event.

"We endeavoured to keep all interested partners informed and they were aware of how we planned to deal with this to ensure the safety of all involved.

“It was an extremely busy weekend for Essex Police with a number of significant incidents across the county taking up resources. However we were able to move officers around the county including some dedicated to public order events elsewhere to enable us to take action.

"The overwhelming priority for the police is to ensure public safety. The event today took place with minimal disruption and without incident. Arrangements are in place for the local Policing Commander to meet with key officials within the local authority and the local Member of Parliament to discuss this event and the planning of future events.”