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.