Northaw festivals bid rejected after summer of chaos
Matthew Smith, Local Democracy Reporter
- Credit: Google Earth
Partygoers having sex in public car parks and vomiting gardens have thwarted plans for up to a dozen more musical festivals in Northaw.
Residents told Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council they had been “living through a nightmare” this summer when events were held.
One World Festival Group Ltd applied for a premises licence to operate on adjoining land to Colesdale Farm, which would have placed two festival sites just yards away from one another, and 210 metres from residential properties.
The licence would have allowed 12 music events, or up to 18 events in general, to be held on Park Farm between April and November, and the organisers suggested these could potentially be “literary festivals” or less disruptive events.
One World Festival Group Ltd said they were working with experts on sound, security, and transport to ensure minimal disruption to residents, and asked to be judged on their application rather than issues with other sites.
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But WHBC was not convinced of the application’s merits and councillors said there were “many” reasons to refuse the plans.
The applicant said they would avoid clashes with Colesdale Farm – which already has a premises licence – but representatives from Environmental Health noted that would leave residents with potentially 24 affected weekends.
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Police and fire representatives raised concerns about the lack of access for emergency services, while Herts police also objected on grounds of preventing crime and disorder, including drug use and violence.
Sgt Christopher Adshead noted that there have been 10 assaults in the location around the current site in the past six months – including one incident of Grievous Bodily Harm where a vehicle was driven into a crowd of people.
More than 120 residents also submitted objections to the borough council ahead of the hearing.
Northaw and Cuffley parish councillor Bob Stubbs said if the plans went ahead it would inflict chaos next summer, arguing that other local events proved the site was unfit.
He said residents “lived through a nightmare” this summer due to the festivals, which could get worse if more events were allowed to happen regardless of the organiser.
Cllr Stubbs said: “The issues that we’ve experienced are; people urinating in front gardens, defecating in front gardens, vomiting in front gardens, littering all over the place, people having sex in public car parks.
“These issues are not to do with the quality of the operator, it’s to do with the profile of the people attending the events. As soon as you get mass crowds of youngsters in an area which they don’t know very well, you’re going to have all these problems.”
Northaw and Cuffley borough councillor Gail Ganney said summer events had affected the mental health and wellbeing of residents: “Most people have carefully chosen to live in Northaw and Cuffley for its family friendly ethos and its quiet village life, many of the residents are elderly and have lived here for scores of years.
“To be confined in fear to their homes for the entire summer weekends and then to face the physical and financial clear up from the thousands of party goers isn’t just inconvenient, it is disruptive, it changes the entire flavour of village living and I can testify, having spoken to many of the residents in person, it is affecting the mental health and wellbeing of many.”
Director of One World Festival Group Ltd James Hoffelner said he had previously run a number of nightclubs for more than 10 years, as well as other festival sites, and wanted to create something Cuffely could be “proud of”.
Mr Hoffelner said that the premises licence would allow his company to organise anything from “a 300 person literary festival all the way up to a 4,999 music festival”.
However, members of the committee were unanimous in their refusal of the site.
The sub-committee’s chair Cllr Paul Smith said: “We have considered all the representations made by the applicant and his team, as well as those made by the relevant authorities and local residents.
“The sub-committee is unanimous in its decision to refuse this application in its entirety. In view of the many issues and complicated subjects raised during the meeting, our full written decision will be made available in writing within the next five working days.”