NIMBY Pop Festival judgement

Blackheath Society have lost their appeal against the NIMBY “OnBlackheath” pop festival organisers and have been ordered to pay £80k costs. Although not completely formalised, this means that Lewisham council have effectively given permission for an event to be held annually, subject to safety reviews.

Despite the rather lofty mention of “anonymous comments in the blogosphere”, I’ve never been totally convinced that the proposal was an entirely good or bad idea.

Read the full text from Blackheath Society for yourselves below:

We are sorry to report to members that, at the final hearing earlier today, and after six days of evidence and argument, the local magistrates dismissed the Society’s appeal against Lewisham Council’s decision to grant NIMBY Events a perpetual licence to run a two day pop festival on the Heath on the second weekend of every September.

However, in doing so, the Court acknowledged that the appeal was properly brought by the Society. This was reflected in their order that the Society should pay less than 50% of the costs that NIMBY and Lewisham had claimed. Nevertheless, the total costs, including our own costs, that will have to be met is a very substantial sum, some £80000. This will be funded from Society reserves.

In its judgment the court had recognised a number of deficiencies in the way the original decision by Lewisham was reached. For example, the magistrates found that “there seems little evidence” of Lewisham acting in an “open and transparent manner” in the weeks leading to the original decision. They found it “astonishing” that no formal notification was given to Greenwich, and “In short, we feel that Lewisham, through its licensing subcommittee, has not acted in an appropriate manner and not had the interests of some of its residents at heart”

Nevertheless, in what ultimately amounted to a rehearing of the application, at which a very substantial body of new information was eventually provided by NIMBY, the court evidently took comfort from the process of scrutiny by the Council’s Safety Advisory Group (SAG), and the opinion of the Police, and found in favour of upholding the licence as originally granted.

The decision is of course a serious disappointment to the many local residents, who, members or not, wrote to us, the magistrates and Lewisham Council and took the opportunity of public meetings to express their opposition to the proposal. Notwithstanding anonymous comments in the blogosphere, we remain to be convinced that the festival will be welcomed by many who live in the area.

In any event, the festival is not yet a “done deal”. In order to obtain a confirmed licence NIMBY has still to complete the process of satisfying the SAG that all the concerns about noise, road closures, transport, law and order, safety, etc can be fully addressed. NIMBY has also to complete a separate process of formal approval from the Council to use the site, in respect of which there are other concerns and objections.

The Society will seek to work constructively with Lewisham to ensure that, if NIMBY is able to overcome the remaining hurdles, this event will cause the minimum possible inconvenience to the community. One of the ways this could be assisted would be by the Society’s attendance at the meetings of the Safety Advisory Group, which we shall seek permission to attend. We shall also be making representations about the wider issues beyond licensing involved in any final approval. In particular, if an event is proposed for 2012, we will be highlighting the many concerns about holding such an event within days of the completion of the Olympics and Paralympics.

In the meantime, prompted by our decision to appeal the original grant of the licence, Lewisham Council, jointly with Greenwich Council, is in the process of producing a policy for use of the Heath for commercial and other events in the future. We see this as a very welcome step and are contributing to the consultation process. A significant benefit, if a policy along the lines of the Council’s draft is adopted, would be that future applications of a similar nature from entrepreneurs such as NIMBY and its financial backers will be subject to a far more rigorous examination than we have so far seen in this case.

We are extremely grateful to all those who have supported the Society in its endeavours, particularly those who contributed to our fighting fund which, needless to say, remains open.

We welcome any continued input and support from members and others on this issue.


Filed under blackheath

35 responses to “NIMBY Pop Festival judgement

  1. Gavin

    Wow. The Blackheath Society has at least £80,000 in reserves? That’s an incredible amount for an amenity society. How did they manage that?

    • Because a few of the leading members of the society own a lot of property locally. This gives them money and political clout. Which is a good thing when they make decisions that benefit the whole community. And a mixed bag when they don’t. It ain’t a co-op.

      • Anonymous

        It might help prevent these discussions if you did not contribute to the view that BlackSoc is a group of millionaires protecting their front garden.
        It’s nothing to do with “a few members owning property”. The SOCIETY owns property inherited from the takeover of the Preservation Trust. A large membership also makes annual contributions.
        Nor has the council “effectively given permission” for the festival. It still has to grant and events licence and after being rudely awoken to the potential impact, will be squeezing the organisers to do more to protect the poor buggers who live next to the site.
        I was never opposed to a festival. But I remain incensed by the casual way it was proposed without consideration of these neighbours – and the braying of supporters who seem to think these mean nothing beside the prospect of a couple of days enjoyment.
        At least this squabble has forced proposals for a proper policy and guidance about events on the Heath. Incidentally, did anyone insisting that this will raise money for the council notice in the events consultation documents that it will cost only a few hundred pounds to win approval for any major event. Presumably, the lion’s share of fees will go to Glendale.

      • ThePirateKing

        Are you saying that the reserves are not raised from members subs but given to the Society by local well off people?
        If that’s the case then (thinking of the lack of members vote on opposing the NIMBY) it makes the Society look rather like a lobby for rich men who live on the heath instead of a democratic local society.

    • Brian

      Are you on the BSoc payroll Bugle?! Going by what the 853 blog says the Society’s appeal did not stand up in any way and was 100% dismissed by the magistrates courts. This should be being comunicated as an out and out win for Nimby surely?

      The BSoc appear to be making a big deal of the new policy for events in Lewisham, which in principal seems like a sensible idea, but as a Lewisham resident I do not want a group of unelected individuals who hold no offical public office to be deciding what does and doesn’t happen in the boroughs parks and open spaces. Why on earth should the BSoc have any more say than every other Lewisham resident does? It also seems apparent that the BSoc is not necessarily in touch with popular culture or keen on local enterpirse.

      It is a real shame that the BSoc can’t now accept that they have lost an expensive and what appears to be futile appeal. If they really had the interests of the local people they would have channelled this money in to something productive and sustainable. Perhaps they should now be thingking about being gracious in defeat and working with Nimby to deliver what could be a wonderful annual event for the area…

  2. Simon Nichols

    A couple of days of festival never hurt anybody, with the legal bill I would imagine the fireworks will be somewhat of a modest affair this year.

  3. Barbara

    £80k damages. That’s a massive win from a magistrate.

    Far more vigourous examination? Is the longest appeal in history not enough examination?

    TBS – give up. You do not represent the community, you do not have a leg (walking stick) to stand on with your waste of money appeals.

    TBS – Spend your resources on something more positive and start enhancing the area.

  4. ThePirateKing

    Stunned to learn that the Blackheath Society of blown £80K of its money (its members money?) on an appeal that was never formally voted for by the membership. Amazing that the rich cats have that much money to burn. And very sad that a few people should chose to spend it on a personal hobby horse. Surely that money would have been better spent defending the library or on the ‘new’ library. As a member I have just written to the Society to raise these points. What a waste of £80K.

    • Anonymous

      Retired old men leaving on the Cator Estate who need to get a life !
      Does their constitution specifically allow for members subscriptions to be used to fund litigation?

  5. Chafvalley

    Am I the only one missing something here? The Blackheath Siciety lose, the people trying to hold this event win, and yet all I read here is the opinion of the losers?
    This is a continued nonsense and undermines the integrity of this site.
    How about the BS and this anonymous site try and work with these nimbiy people to at least try and work together.
    Could that work?

    Yours sincerely,
    Mr Y V Isu.

    • ThePirateKing

      I think people (like me) are talking about the Society because it was such a waste of £80K of someone’s money!

  6. Chafvalley

    How about you swap this story to read that
    Nimby have won the result? Would make for s different context for sure.

    Well done Nimby, that can’t have been easy.

  7. Pingback: On Blackheath music festival gets court go-ahead « 853

  8. Wilson

    Excellent. I’ve never heard such humble pie regurgitated so bitterly. 1-0 to the residents of the 21st century. I’m sure the BS will do all it can to place spanners into the works now it’s had it’s nose bloodied, but it’s given me hope that common sense prevails occasionally. Even when up against deep coffers and archaic attitudes.

  9. Anonymous

    “anonymous comments in the blogosphere” – that would be Brockley Central, king of the Nimbies, pro- every development outside the Brockley conservation area.

  10. Kate

    I am not old nor rich, but appreciate a good night’s sleep for me and my little children. I don’t like loud music, but again it will be imposed on me. I don’t understand the hostility in the comments towards people who try to protect their neighbourhood and their hearing.

  11. Adrian

    Kate, Though I have sympathy with your sentiments, I urge you not to get carried away. I understand that the original application was for a cessation of music at 10:30 on Saturday, 10:00 Sunday. So your sleep should be protected.

    My family is split on the event. I am undecided, it will depend on the line up that gets signed. However, I will say that I think that the Heath should be for the good of all people, not just the old, staid, died-in-the-wool group who oppose all change for the sake of it. I would rather see a decent run festival than some of the blaring sounds that come from the fairs.

    Anyway – its going ahead in 2012. Something to look forward to after the bloody olympics (don’t get me started on those) and hopefully its not all people who are rap artists who have made some hit music.

    (that’s Rap with a silent C and Hit with a silent S).

    • Emily

      “I understand that the original application was for a cessation of music at 10:30 on Saturday, 10:00 Sunday. So your sleep should be protected”

      My two young children go to sleep at 7.00pm NOT 10pm. They need a full nights sleep not one interrupted by a concert and the noise of concert go-ers making their way home for an hour after the concert finishes. I live in the area and I was not asked what I wanted.

      I did not want this concert to go ahead.

      • Brian

        As a parent myself can I suggest you take them along during the day, tire the little darlings out and as kids do they will sleep regardless – you’ll also get a fun family day out on your doorstep. Next thing you know your kids will be platinum selling artists having been inspired by the festival they grew up close to. Then they can buy you a big house in the Cotswolds so you will no longer have to worry about noise or late nights.

        Let us not forget that Blackheath is not a quaint little ‘village’ but part of one of the world’s largest and most vibrant cities for which we should be very grateful, afterall is that not why we all live here?

  12. Bemused of Blackheath

    Michele (or anyone with legal knowledge):
    I’m confused again. Am I right in thinking that the only people who have acted correctly throughout this record-breaking appeal are Nimby? The BlackSoc apparently didn’t bother to consult its own members and Lewisham’s behaviour has been typically inept and underhand.

    As I understand it, Nimby applied for the various permissions via all the correct channels and held a public meeting to try and reassure objectors.

    I am not a fan of pop concerts on the heath (nor a dog walker as it happens) but I don’t understand why Nimby are having to foot part of the bill for a hearing which they won and which they never wanted.

  13. Legal Brain

    Only 50% costs were awarded as the courts do not want to deter residents from appealing in the future, even though on this case the Blackheath Society were 100% wrong to appeal a perfect legitimate license. It is positive discrimination towards residents groups/households regardless of how wealthy/poor the residents are or how many times they have appealed such licenses in the past.

    The Blackheath Society are very lucky that the magistrates were so sympathetic to their financial situation, despite them not having any grounds for an appeal.

    The Blackheath Society should be furious with their legal team, who have clearly mislead them from the start as this was a no win situation. Their solicitor must have been rubbing his hands together as the case ran to seven days and played on the fears and irrational behaviour of the Society.

    Ce la vie – should have used me. I would have been more expensive – but I would have told them in 2 mins that they should drop it. (£350 an hour, minimum charge 6 minutes…….£35! – sorted)

  14. I am very pleased to hear that NIMBY Events have won the right to put on an local and exciting event. I say good luck to them and I hope they don’t have any more barriers put in their way.

    I am very disappointed to hear that The Blackheath Society wasted so much money and everyone’s time when I think they could have worked together with NIMBY and other local groups for a good solution/compromise for all. Did they really try? Or did they just go to court?

    It is good to hear that Lewisham Council have been criticised for their poor communication to local residents and to Greenwich Council. Hopefully this will improve things for the future, but again, did we really need to go to court to figure this out? LC may have made mistakes but in a time of severe public service cuts LC now have to pay 10k court costs – is this not money that could have been spent on front-line services?

    80k is a lot of money and I cannot believe that the thirteen member BS committee did not put this issue to a society vote before going ahead with the appeal. What a shocking and awful waste of money. I hope there are other BS members like The Pirate King who write to the society to complain about this waste of money.

    Also, ‘Bemused of Blackheath’ makes a number of very good points. Why do NIMBY have to foot a 40k bill for an appeal that they did not want? If they followed all the rules when submitting their application why are they being financially penalised? And they didn’t *have* to hold a local meeting to meet residents and discuss their concerns – but they did.


    Michelle O’Brien’s blog is here:

    853 blog link is here:

  15. Michele O'Brien

    As I understand it Blackheath Society’s 13-strong management committee wasn’t obliged by the rules to take a formal sounding of the Society’s membership before launching the legal appeal and it didn’t. Simple as that!

    The committee members say it was clear from e-mails and word of mouth that the membership was against the festival going ahead, and it’s a fact that lack of formal consultation before the appeal was launched was not raised as an issue at the Society’s annual general meeting on June 9.

    The Magistrates in dismissing the Society’s appeal on Friday were sharply critical of Lewisham Council’s licensing sub-committee on two fronts – failing to publicise widely enough NIMBY’s original application to stage the festival and failing to notify Greenwich Council of the festival application.

    The Magistrates had no criticism of the way NIMBY has handled matters.

  16. Over on 853, Darryl Chamberlain has pointed out that “the case was listed as “Blackheath Society v London Borough of Lewisham.”” and that “NIMBY Events Ltd was the second respondent”.

    So, again why were NIMBY penalised for a case they did not bring and were simply a second respondent in? One could argue that the NIMBY event proposal was just an excuse for The Blackheath Society to challenge Lewisham Council on a wider range of issues – which seems to have been the point of the whole exercise.

    So, a start-up company whose intention is to promote and bring money into an area of London mainly ignored is treated with disdain and negativity, and a Society that doesn’t put on any interesting local events or contribute to the social make-up of my local area gets to have its day(s) in court to moan at Lewisham.

    Wonderful. This young 27-year old non-anonymous local thinks The Blackheath Society is an arse.

    • Emily

      The intention of Nimby is not to bring money into this area of London, their intention is to make money otherwise they would not put up with the hassle.

  17. Paul

    I’m nearby the site, in Greenwich rather than Blackheath, and I’m glad the festival is going ahead. Any inconvenience will be short-term, and I’m sorry to see local amenity societies campaigning against such temporary events, when there are far bigger planning issues on which they should concentrate their resources.

    As for the snipes about “comments from the blogosphere” – they are simply childish and demeaning. The Blackheath Society should take a long, hard look at themselves and reflect on the negative PR that this case has generated for them, as well as the costs that all parties have needlessly incurred.

  18. Who Nose?

    My problem is that the license has been granted in perpetuity, Like Kate, I live on the Heath, young family and am not rich. I’m on the fence about the festival – I shan’t be going with a young family, but can see the plus side. However I’d like to have seen this run for a year, so we can understand the implications before it’s decided that it’s an annual event.

    @Laura Ruffle: Nimby have to pay part of their legal costs as that’s the way it works. It’s a cost of doing business – don’t worry they’ll make it back and more.
    Secondly I’m not really sure in what way Nimby are bringing money into the area – the ticket sales, beer sales etc etc will not be going to local shops – they’re going to Nimby. I don’t really buy into the ‘start-up company whose intention is to promote and bring money into an area of London mainly ignored is treated with disdain and negativity’ line. They’re a start-up company whose intention is to make money by holding a festival on the Heath. Nothing wrong with that per se but let’s not pretend that they’re some kind of awesome charity rather than a business who happen to be marketing a product you like.

    • Anonymous

      “let’s not pretend that they’re some kind of awesome charity rather than a business who happen to be marketing a product you like.”

      25,000 tickets @ £45 = £1.125m
      If that is per day, then £2.25m
      Take away cost of bands, security, admin, etc and a profit of close to £500,000 does not seem unreasonable.
      Percentage of this going to Lewisham Council Tax payers? All I’ve seen so far is an administrative charge of £175 outlined in the draft events policy. How much will Glendale cream off under the contract which allows it to exploit the Heath? Who knows.

      And one nagging point to those banging on that two days of fun do not a nuisance make. Why do you think this will stop at two days? If three guys with no experience can win the fight to slap a festival next door to a few hundred homes, what’s to stop another dozen events springing up? There’s nothing in the proposed rules which limits the number – or size – of events. Each will be decided on its merits. Anyone refused permission would immediately go to court and refer to the NIMBY victory as precedent.

      Which, of course, is what worried BlackSoc. Despite the rantings of the “You Fusty Old Millionaires Don’t Represent Us” Brigade, the objections were NOT against holding a festival but HOW IT HAS BEEN ORGANISED and the lack of overall controls on such events.

      • Brian

        There are significant fees to just apply for a license of this nature so the Council will already of made in the region of £10k from Nimby. On the matter of the license @Who Nose? having a license in perpetuity does not mean the event can simply happen every year without scrutiny. Any license of this nature will have a significant amount of conditions attached to it (think I read somehere that this one has 60 or so) and will also be up for review each year post the event. If for any reason the event does not meet the strict licensing conditions then the license can be revoked.

        @ Anonymous what about the impact of 50,000 people on local businesses. If each person spends just £5 in the area that will be another £250k in two days to the local economy. I can’t believe local councils all over London would encourage these types of events if there was no financial incentive for them and local commerce.

        The way licensing works is if another promoter were to now apply for a two day license to use the heath for a music festival the licensing committee could deem that 4 days of live music each year would be unreasonable and would in fact cause a public nuisance so the council does have powers and measures in place to block other events if they so wish. I suspect you may also find Nimby would be on side when it comes to blocking other events as, if they have any sense, won’t want any local competition!

        Ultimately it is 2 days out of 365 and will be something new and most likely fun, as local residents we should get behind this sort of thing and work with the orgnaisers to make sure it causes as little disruption as possible.

        p.s. @Anonymous surely you don’t really believe that the BSoc weren’t or aren’t in principle against a music festival do you?! Having been to BSoc meetings I know they are (in the main) against any event of this nature taking place in their front garden, oh hold on – it’s not their front garden it is for everyone in the borough to enjoy…

  19. @Who Nose?

    Of course, NIMBY are a business that want to make money, I understand that. I just do not understand TBS’s attitude.

    Business makes the world go round, it isn’t all bad and can be a force for good.

    Let us just see what happens…

  20. Ed

    Are NIMBY going to rename ? That would be a gesture of goodwill to the locals .

      • Anonymous

        NIMBY has realised its inflammatory name was a mistake and is now OnBlackheath. It has also got its approval, although Lewisham Council is back-pedalling like mad to try and ensure it does not inflame too many voters, by imposing a lot more restrictions such as limiting ticket sales to 15,000.

  21. Heath Hugger

    Wouldn’t we all be better off if Blackheath was allowed to be a heath again, and not constantly pimped and crimped to look like a park?
    Saving millions doing that might stop its legal guardians, Lewisham and Greenwich council abusing it. Instead of flogging it off hour by hour, they ‘d have money to protect and look after it.
    We wouldn’t be told we need gardeners to effectively run a box-office to take bookings and money from men in shiny suits and leather jackets who want to do to Blackheath what they’ve done for several years, to dozens of London’s parks including Hyde Park, Victoria Park and Clapham Common, where residents complained of 17 organised “events” last year.
    If you Google these places, the warnings to us are all there. If in doubt, read what hundreds of ordinary people, not just “millionaires” in big houses, are shouting about Pop festivals … festivals of any and all sorts, in their parks and open spaces.
    Families say they hate summer now.
    Free “residents tickets”, offered by some concert promoters don’t do much to compensate people whose walls and windows shake in time with the music booming out 50 yards from their kitchen.
    Lewisham’s permission for two back-to-back music “festivals” this summer will mean the start of large-scale fencing off in the middle of the heath from July 28. An end to noise as loud as an air-show, weeks of road closures, the sight and smell of several hundred portaloos and truckloads of bottles and litter could still be bothering Blackheath as late as September 20 —, eight weeks later. What’s more troubling perhaps is the thought, or rather the threat hanging over anyone who wants to but can’t leave Blackheath this summer. Fears about your house or garden being trashed if you go is one thing. But there are lots of people who don’t even want to think about what it will be like living in Blackheath after that. And to those who mean to leave and come back “when it’s all over”? It’ll never be over.
    How can it be over?
    Surely Blackheath as we’ve known and loved it will gradually die.
    Lewisham is cutting the money it used to pay Glendales to manage its heath, parks and gardens by 10 percent a year (£84,000 annually) till its 10 year contract ends. If Glendales wants more, it must make it up renting Blackheath out, all year round.
    The only warning we will get of imminent “events” will be men in boiler suits and baseball caps telling you when and where you can walk, just before the metal fencing arrives. We’re told we’ll get used to huge, outdoor screens, and music so loud it strips paint . Residents can ask Lewisham to review a promoter’s premises or drinks licence if things go really wrong. They can ask, but reviews cost money.
    New parks, especially those adjacent to new housing are essential in Lewisham, but turning Blackheath into a park or worse, a venue will see it die a long, lingering death.

    Why is Blackheath all of a sudden, for wholesale hire? Up for grabs to every faith, hope and charity going.
    Why? Because Lewisham Council, like councils country-wide, has spent 10 years trying to homogenise its, or rather our borough’s wild and green public spaces. Everything from cemetries and rail-track wasteland to Blackheath itself. It’s all been re-branded as Open Space, which if at all possible must generate income.
    And if some of those Open Spaces have to become “parks” with playgrounds to attract extra funding, so be it, apparently.
    This evolved, partly due to changes in planning law, nationally and locally but mainly because we’ve let them.
    Local papers stopped covering Council meetings, nobody knew what creeping changes were happening.
    What we’re told is that Lewisham needs play-space. Tame, hard-wearing hockey and soccer pitches for thousands of new as well as old residents, many of whom have lost front or back gardens and local play grounds near their homes. People who’ve been moved out of crumbling council flats and into newly built accomodation, no longer necessarily owned or managed by Lewisham council, but by housing associations.
    Wild places, even unique, green scientifically important places like Blackheath are now seen as ripe for re-branding, as parks which can yield vital income.
    If you’ve got several days free, it’s almost all on Google, if you know where to look and keep digging

  22. Pingback: OnBlackheath: getting the balance right between music and nuisance | Blackheath Westcombe Labour

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