PEOPLE in Lewes say numbers at the annual bonfire celebrations were down dramatically this year – and pub landlords blamed travel restrictions for a dip in business.

Some in the town said there were roughly half as many people at the bonfire as last year.

Estimates suggest there were at least 5,000 fewer in attendance.

Organisers had raised “serious concerns” about overcrowding at the event and people from outside the area were urged not visit.

Major roads leading into the town were closed in an attempt to curb numbers, and no trains called at Lewes, Glynde or Southease after 5pm.

Police Superintendent Howard Hodges had called for people to “stay local”. He said: “There are a number of other events taking place around Sussex and we’re urging everyone to attend an event near them.”

Locals represented a large proportion of revellers at the event and said this year had been noticeably less packed.

One 83-year-old Lewes resident, who declined to be named, has been to the bonfire every year since 1945. He said: “The best one I remember is watching Maggie Thatcher burn. But it does seem a lot quieter this year.”

Business owners were concerned about reduced custom. The landlady at the Lansdown Arms said transport restrictions meant it was calmer than usual. The pub closed for the night at about 11pm. She said: “We could have handled a lot more. They’re strict on numbers this year. We’ve had about half as many as usual.”

To the uninitiated, it would have been hard to tell. Crowds of spectators gathered to boo an enormous Boris Johnson effigy as it was lugged about the streets. Parade-goers lit firecrackers until the town was coated in a thick smog, and hundreds of burning torches stood out in the gloom.

But it did seem that organisers had tightened the perimeter this year. Marshals prevented The Argus from attending the Southover Bonfire Society’s site, where the effigy of Boris Johnson was burned.

There was a large police presence and marshals were stringent about keeping tourists off the streets and out of the way of the parades.

Tom Mortimer, a member of staff at The Brewer’s Arms in Lewes High Street, said: “I understand why they’ve done it. It’s for the safety of other people.

“But at the pub last night they were saying there were fewer people around than previous years. Some people put it down to the restrictions on travel.”

Not everyone said they had been affected. The landlord at the Gardeners’ Arms in Cliffe High Street said despite noticing “far fewer people out”, it was business as usual.