LEISURE boss Charlie Croft revealed today that he always knew people gathering near York Minster on Guy Fawkes Night would be unable to see the fireworks.

Mr Croft said it was always intended that spectators would make their way to Bootham Bar or Lendal Bridge to get a view of the city's big skyline display. But he said organisers had not realised just how large a crowd would assemble by the cathedral and then pack the bridge, bringing traffic to a halt, and vowed that lessons would be learned from the evening.

"We clearly knew that if you stood in front of Dean Court (Hotel) you wouldn't see the fireworks," he said. "But there are two routes out, through Bootham Bar and towards Lendal Bridge. That's why we had stewards at the intersection of Blake Street and on Lendal Bridge.

"We didn't put the stress on the Minster. We didn't expect 10,000 people. We didn't expect huge crowds to surge down."

However, a leaflet advertising the city's Guy Fawkes celebrations stated: "From dusk. Renaissance: Illuminating York....The dazzling centrepiece will be York Minster's transformation by a temporary installation that will paint the western faade in breathtaking colours."

Mr Croft, who as City of York Council's assistant director of leisure had overall responsibility for Saturday night's event, was speaking publicly for the first time since a storm of protest erupted from people whose view of the fireworks was obscured by buildings.

Residents have also claimed their health and safety was put at risk when crowds surged through the streets to try to get a view of the display, which was launched from St Peter's School fields.

Mr Croft said leaflets advertising the event had stated that the display would be visible "from most points around the city", but conceded that a press release had said they were "designed to be seen from across the city".

Asked whether people could not have been given some warning that the fireworks would not be visible from certain areas, such as the Minster, he said the event had been about "brass and bells" - the playing of brass bands and ringing of church bells.

"The idea of the fireworks was that they would be a skyline backdrop."

He said a major risk assessment had been made beforehand to ensure people's safety. For example, the walkway over the River Ouse at City Screen had been assessed for a maximum number of spectators. "We had people counted on and counted off."

Asked why St Peter's School was chosen to let off the fireworks rather than, for example, Dean's Park or Knavesmire, he said it was selected after a careful assessment as the only suitable site remotely close to the city centre.

He said Knavesmire was almost twice the distance away, and there was not the budget available for a full display there, while Dean's Park would not have been remotely big enough for the type of fireworks used. "Even Rowntree Park was not big enough."

"I think overall it was a very successful week. The event went from 2.30pm to 6.15 pm and I think most people had a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon but it's clear that for a minority, the afternoon was spoiled because they couldn't see the fireworks and we have said we are sorry about that."

Updated: 12:06 Friday, November 11, 2005