Tag Archives: nimby

Ouch…

Michelle O’Brien writes:

Pop fans have got themselves an annual festival on Blackheath starting in 2012 and Blackheath Society has got itself a hefty legal costs bill totalling £79,800 after its mammoth bid to stop the planned event was thrown out by court order.

“We are obviously pleased,” said a delighted NIMBY Events Ltd. director Tom Wates after Bromley Magistrates on Friday (July 22) ruled against the Society following the country’s reported longest ever running appeal hearing under licensing procedure. The appeal hearings started March 3.

“We are looking forward to the two-day OnBlackheath festival going ahead in September next year,” Mr. Wates said. “We have no hard feelings about Blackheath Society. We will continue to work with them and other community groups.”

The Society’s Chairman, Mr. Howard Shields, told reporters after the court ruling was announced: “Obviously we are disappointed – and surprised – at the Magistrates’ decision.”

Asked about reports that younger people living in the area mostly support the planned festival and see the Society as speaking only for Blackheath’s older and wealthier residents, Mr. Shields said: “We do agree that we must try harder to get our message over. We have got a communications challenge.”

The Society’s appeal was against a ruling by Lewisham Council’s licensing sub-committee giving the go-ahead for NIMBY to stage the OnBlackheath festival starting this year and continuing in perpetuity, with sale of alcohol.

But Mr. Wates and his co-directors had to cancel this year’s festival plans because of the time the overall appeal hearing has taken. The organisers aim to attract audiences of 25,000 on each of the festival’s two days, charging £45 per ticket per day.

The ruling by the two Magistrates (Mr. Roger Mills and Dr. Patrick Davies)hearing the appeal was scathing about Lewisham Council’s failure to publicise widely enough the original application to stage OnBlackheath.

“It should be the goal of any local authority to conduct its affairs in an open and transparent manner,” the ruling said. “In the weeks leading up to the original hearing by … Lewisham’s licensing sub-committee, in October 2010, there seems little evidence of this.

“This is evidenced by the large number of local residents (from both Greenwich and Lewisham) who were totally unaware of the (NIMBY) application until it was too late to make representations.

“The scale of the proposed event, coupled with the possible impact on the local community, both negative and positive, should, in our view, have caused Lewisham to widely publicise the application.”

The Magistrates’ ruling was equally scathing over the Council’s failure to notify Greenwich Council of the festival application.

“No formal notification was given to the London Borough of Greenwich. This we find astonishing, because a major event, attracting up to 50,000 people over two days, was being planned on a site just meters away from the mutual boundary of Greenwich and Lewisham.

“The chairman of … Greenwich’s licensing committee and their officers only became aware of the proceedings at a late stage. They too were denied the opportunity to make representations…

“In short, we feel that Lewisham, through its Licensing sub-committee, has not acted in an appropriate manner and has not had the interests of some of its residents at heart.”

But the Magistrates said that despite their criticisms of Lewisham Council “we do not find that the decision of the licensing sub-committee was wrong and in fact we consider that it was correct and therefore the (Society’s) appeal is dismissed.”

The Magistrates said although it would be impossible to eliminate all noise from the festival to surrounding areas they were confident it could be managed so as not to undermine the licensing objectives.

The resolution to launch the appeal was the unanimous but sole decision of the Society’s 13-member management committee. The committee did not
consult the Society’s membership comprising some 980 households before launching the legal appeal.

The Society, which bills itself “the Guardians of the Heath”, has asked its rank-and-file members to dig into their pockets and purses over and above the £15 average they pay in annual membership fees to help fund the cost of the appeal.

NIMBY’s barrister, Mr. Simon Taylor, told the court: “This appeal from day one had little or no merit.” He said it had achieved nothing from the point of view of Blackheath residents.

“There is not one single argument that the appellant has raised that you (the Magistrates) have not rejected,” he said. He accused the Society of intransigence and “of wasting everybody’s time and costs.”

He said the society was very well funded with assets of £400,000 while
Mr. Wates and his fellow NIMBY directors were “three family men who have had to dip into savings to fund this appeal.”

Mr. Taylor condemned the Society’s “foolishness” in doggedly ploughing on “regardless to the end” with its appeal instead of dropping it. “It’s my submission that the Blackheath Society from day one did not act logically in lodging this appeal,” he told the court.

Lewisham Council’s barrister, Mr. Edmund Walters, told the court: “It was not clear how many members of the Society were actually behind the appeal.” “On every legal point the Society has lost,” he added.

The Society’s barrister, Ms. Sarah LeFevre, agreed “the appeal was dismissed in every aspect” by the Magistrates. But she told the court: “It’s not fair to categorise this Society as a dog in the manger … We do say we had reasonable grounds for appeal.” Blackheath Society had done little to protract the proceedings, she said.

The appeal has occupied a total of seven days of hearings since the court proceedings started March 3. The appeal hearing was originally expected to last only two days. It has heard evidence from 16 witnesses called by the Society, two called by NIMBY and four called by Lewisham Cuncil

“Yes, it’s not a poor Society,” Ms. LeFevre told the court. But she said most of the registered charity’s £400,000 was in the form of property bequests.

Ordering costs against Blackheath Society, the Magistrates awarded £41,000 to NIMBY and £10,800 to Lewisham Council. With the Society’s own legal costs amounting to £28,000 this brings the total the Society has to pay in costs resulting from its appeal to £79,800.

“OUCH?” asked a reporter of Mr. John Hine, one of the Society’s management committee, who was in court.

“OUCH!” he agreed, adding: “We need younger members.”

Update:

Blackheath Society in a statement to its members after Friday’s court ruling acknowledged: “The total costs, including our own costs, that will have to be met (by the Society) is a very substantial sum, some £80,000.” It would be funded from Society reserves, the statement said.

NIMBY’s legal team had asked the Magistrates to order the Society to pay the full £140,000 costs incurred by NIMBY and Lewisham Council during the appeal. But the Magistrates declined to do this, saying the Society’s appeal had been “properly brought” and that Parliament had intended residents to have a say in the licensing process.

“This was reflected in their (the Magistrates’) order that the Society should pay less than 50% of the costs that NIMBY and Lewisham had claimed,” the Society’s statement said.

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Blackheath Festival Abandoned for 2011

Michelle O’Brien writes that Nimby won’t go ahead with the On Blackheath festival this year:

Organisers of the planned OnBlackheath pop festival this summer said on Monday (May 16th) that they will almost certainly now have to abandon it after Bromley Magistrates ordered yet another adjournment in hearing Blackheath Society’s appeal against the event.

“We are desperately disappointed,” NIMBY Events Ltd. director Tom Wates said after the Magistrates adjourned the hearing of the Society’s appeal, this time until 29 June.

Monday was the 5th day of the hearings. They began on the 3rd of March.

But Mr. Wates said on Monday that if the Magistrates did finally throw out the Society’s appeal, NIMBY would be back again with a new bid to stage the open-air two-day festival on the Heath in September 2012.

Among the class of stars NIMBY had been looking to feature at the festival this Sept. 10 and 11 year were Adele and Mumford & Sons. NIMBY had been planning on attracting audiences of 25,000 on each of the planned festival’s two days, charging £45 per ticket per day.

Mr. Wates and his wife own the Noa Noa dress shop in Blackheath Village.

Earlier on Monday, Peter Gadsdon, head of Lewisham Council’s Strategy and Performance department and chairman of the Council’s Safety Advisory Group, had told the two Magistrates hearing the appeal: “Mr. Wates indicated that the event would not go ahead unless there was a decision today.”

Fellow NIMBY director Alex Wicks said that as a result of the Society’s legal bid to block the festival the three parties involved – NIMBY, the Society and Lewisham Council – had together been involved in spending “a ridiculous amount of money, far too much” on legal fees. Each of the three is represented in court by a barrister.

Mr. Wicks said a guesstimate for the total for the three would be £200,000. “It’s a significant amount of money which could have been put to better use than this”.

He said NIMBY has financial backing from a venture capital group. Blackheath Society, meanwhile, has appealed to its
members to dig into their pockets to help fund its legal costs. As a Council, Lewisham’s legal costs are met by local council tax payers.

The presiding Magistrate, Mr. Roger Mills, told the court on Monday: “This appeal was originally listed for two days” (March 3rd and 4th). “But here we are half way through Day 5 and Day 6 is looming.”

But he said that because of “the enormous amount of evidence” from the hearings that the two Magistrates would have to plough through there could be no final decision in the case until some unspecified time after June 29th.

At an earlier hearing, Mr. Wates had indicated continuing uncertainty over the outcome of the Society’s appeal was causing NIMBY major headaches, including booking artists. He said neither artists nor some of the contractors NIMBY wanted to use would enter into discussions until they knew for certain that the festival was going ahead.

Recognised as one of the most powerful local groups of its kind in the country, Blackheath Society bills itself as the “Guardians of the Heath.” But local blogs show overwhelming support for OnBlackheath especially among younger people.

The Society’s appeal is against a ruling by Lewisham Council’s licensing sub-committee that gave the go-ahead for NIMBY to stage the festival annually this year and in perpetuity, with sale of alcohol.

Many thanks to Michelle for sending this in. I’ve always been in two minds about the festival to be honest – never quite decided which side of the fence to land… But it is clear that many people commenting here and on other local blogs (such as the excellent 853blog), feel strongly that the Society may have mis-judged the local mood this time.

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Blackheath Festival – leaflets appearing

Anti OnBlackheath music festival leaflet
Just received a copy of a leaflet that is being delivered near to the festival:

Why we are asking you to write to your MP about the OnBIackheath Festival due to be held very near here in September

Dear Neighbour,
We live nearby – at the top of Lewisham Hill, and are writing to you as neighbours. We don’t belong to any group.

On the 10th and 11th September a company cailed NIMBY Events are planning to hold a festival on the same part of the Heath that was used forthe Climate Camp last year.

There is nothing wrong with people having fun, or people making money.

But, festival organisers usuaily try to avoid disrupting local residents, especially young children. Like you, we live here and we think that the views of local peopie should be considered.

We are concemed about the OnBlackheath Festival for the following reasons:

  • It is being held in the first two weeks of the new September school term – keeping nursery and primary school children awake when they need to be resting for school
  • The event is licensed all weekend for all-day drinking until 10.30pm on Sunday night
  • Once the music and drinking stops, late on Sunday night, up to 25,000 people will be encouraged to head down Lewisham Hill to the station. Many will presumably hang around until later.

We do not have assurance that the organisers will have managed to clean up by the next momlng, when children walk across the heath to get to school. At other festivals it is not unknown for broken bottles, drug paraphernalia and other detritus to be found the next day.

The reason we’re writing to you is that the alcohol licence – which was granted for this and every subsequent year – has been challenged in court, and the festival might also need ministerial approval. So there is a short window of opportunity between now and the hearing on April for local people to make their views known. This may make all the difference, as the local MP, Heidi Alexander, says the letters she has received so far have been roughly half in favour, half against.

At the recent public meeting we asked the organisers if they would consider moving the Festival out of school term time to the summer holidays. They said no, because it might reduce attendance numbers.

You can email Heidi Alexander MP, at heidi.alexander.mp@parliament.uk or write to her at Heidi Alexander, MP for Lewisham East, House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA.

The best way of making your views known directly to the licensing appeal is to write to the magistrates at the following address: The Presiding Judge, Reg Case No: 011003910186, Greenwich Magistrates Court, The Court House, London Rd, Bromley, BR1 1RA

If you can, please do it before 15th April while there is still chance to influence the decision.

Thank you,
Simon and Abigail, local residents (simonandabigail at gmail.com)

It will be interesting to see how this plays out… I suspect the festival will go ahead regardless.

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Blackheath Music Festival – details emerge

Blackheath Music Fesitval map
onBlackheath, the organisers of what was previously referred to as the Nimby Music Festival, have just released a PDF, with more details of the proposed festival.

The PDF can be found here.

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Minutes from the pop festival licensing meeting

It is the same guy. Quite a detailed report of what they intend to do. Would love to know how they plan to restrict sound from moving through the air. Thanks to Lewisham Council for responding so quickly to my request!

Minutes of the meeting (Google Docs).

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NIMBY Pop Festival on the Heath?

During the Blackheath Climate Camp, photo by Indymedia
After the Blackheath Climate Camp, photo by Indymedia

The mysterious NIMBY Events Ltd are planning a two day pop festival to be held every year in approximately the same place as the Climate Camp (but bigger). The first one is due to take place on September 10th-11th. Lewisham Council have approved the alcohol license (PDF should be here, but has disappeared). Glendale, the contractors who manage the park for Lewisham Council also approve of the deal. The Blackheath Joint Working Party have considered – and rejected the idea twice, but NIMBY continued with the application to the council despite this.

The Blackheath Society are now planning to fight this in the courts, and seem very opposed to it – as can be seen on the front page of their website.

There is another meeting of the Blackheath Joint Working Party on Thursday 3rd February, 7.30pm, in St Michael’s Church Hall, Blackheath Park, 1 Pond Road, SE3 9JL, where the plans will be discussed further.

I can’t help thinking that Twitter user ladywormhill could have a point:

The Climate Camp was unquestionably a successful event held on the heath. These would be paying punters, who wouldn’t tidy up after themselves, but the organisers would have to deal with this. The heath is a big place, and many smaller parks hold similar festivals occasionally without the sky falling on their heads. Opposing it outright seems to summon up images of a rather stuffy form of Nimbyism (unfortunate choice of name by the promoters)… Maybe the solution would be to grant a single license for one year, on the understanding that any additional year would also have to be approved.

Or I suppose the mysterious NIMBY events group could just do what the protesters did, and turn up without permission, assuming they wanted a free rave on the heath, not a profitable enterprise. I’m sure either outcome would be great for local businesses, and is arguably similar to what used to happen on the heath regularly a few centuries ago. UPDATE: Come to think of it, part of the heath was closed for a day recently to allow a golf tournament.

Photos showing before and after the Climate Camp, by Indymedia. If anyone knows anything more about the mysterious Nimby Events, please let me know.

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