Council blocks festivals in village following residents complaints

Colesdale Festivals Banned

Hertfordshire Constabulary presented a video of the traffic problems outside the Colesdale Farm site. - Credit: Herts police

Festivals have been banned from a Hertfordshire village after locals complained it had made their village a 'no go area'. 

Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council received 200 complaints last summer from locals, and has now revoked a licence to allow up to 12 events a summer to take place.

Festival operator Joshua Silver was granted a second chance after complaints in 2020, but the borough council has changed their mind after residents reported loud music, drink-driving and drug use. 

One parish councillor claimed he attended the site to complain about the noise and left ‘quite stoned’ on second-hand cannabis smoke, while the police reported a person driving into a crowd after getting into a fight at one event.

Under the licence Mr Silver, of Huds10 Ltd and previously BJP Productions, had been permitted to hold 12 events on Colesdale Farm in Northaw over the summer months with a capacity of 5,000 people.

The festival operators had offered to reduce the number of events to six, each with a 3,000 person capacity, and agreed to more conditions being imposed to limit complaints in regards to traffic and noise.

The decision follows a meeting in September where the borough council rejected a plan from a separate operator to host 12 separate festivals on an adjacent site in the village.

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Following a meeting of the alcohol and regulated entertainment sub-committee on March 30, councillors rejected the proposed compromise after hearing residents reported seeing festival goers having sex in car parks, drink driving, and smoking cannabis in the street, while the event’s performers could be heard clearly inside their homes.

The borough council’s environmental health department applied for the licence review, saying they received 200 complaints in relation to events between July and September 2021, with noise, traffic, anti-social behaviour and litter issues all reported. Environmental health officers claimed that while investigating the complaints, they found nearby residents could clearly hear the music from the festival site including foul language being picked up in one child’s bedroom.

The police also supported the review, citing issues relating to traffic and crime and disorder at events last year, describing scenes of hundreds of pedestrians walking along a national speed limit road as “unacceptably dangerous”.

Alex Kettle-Stupka of Hertfordshire Constabulary, also mentioned one fight that started inside the festival led to an individual driving into a crowd, causing one person grievous bodily harm, before they then collided with another vehicle in traffic. Following this, another fight started involving “a significant number of people” which remains under investigation.

Mr Kettle-Stupka added there had been 10 incidents within 100m of the festival site last year, and said: “I hope this review can halt that trend, indeed an indication being since the venue stopped holding events for the winter period, the crimes have also stopped”.

During Wednesday’s meeting, councillors also heard from members of the public who raised concerns about “gridlock” on the roads and said they were unable to leave the village on event days.

Northaw and Cuffley Parish councillor Barry Knichel claimed the commitments made during the 2020 licence review did not make any difference to the noise in the village, and said as events grew in size after Covid restrictions.

He said: “Whereas the 2020 events were all about noise nuisance, the 2021 events brought a whole new dimension to the nuisance by creating a no go area. To suggest that one or two events will be allowed is like telling people they have to vacate their homes for just one or two days.

“These events can, and do, make nearby homes uninhabitable, it’s not my words but from those who have lived through it. There’s no justification why people should be expected to have their homes be part of an intimidating and disruptive environment.”

Mr Knichel said in response to complaints he visited the site to speak to a sound engineer, where the sound was turned down but then turned back up in a cycle. He said while on site he also noticed the open use of cannabis at the festival.

He said: “After having spent some time waiting to talk to the sound engineer, I left the site feeling quite stoned from second hand cannabis smoke. It was good I walked there, but it’s the first time I’ve experienced that since the days of college.”

Josef Cannon, representing Huds10 Ltd director Josh Silver, said it was not true that all the events caused issues, and said a team of experts had been employed to address concerns with noise and traffic, while litter teams were already in place to address local campaigns.

The organisers also agreed to conditions proposed by Environmental Health which would see them submit risk assessments and liaise with the police at least eight weeks prior to the event. They also outlined a new route for pedestrian and vehicle traffic to address concerns raised by the police.

However, that was not enough to satisfy councillors who decided against introducing new restrictions and instead completely revoked the licence.

The sub-committee’s chair Cllr Paul Smith said: “Valuable submissions have been made by Mr Silver’s representatives, setting out improved traffic management and noise conditions to address the concerns raised. this is the second time this licence has come before this sub-committee for review, however, and unfortunately after listening to the representations made by environmental health, the police and local residents, the sub-committee is not satisfied that it can be run safely.

“Looking at the topography of the location, and it’s close proximity to local dwellings, the sub-committee is not fully satisfied any noise conditions it could attach would fully negate the nuisance caused to residents. For these reasons, the sub-committee has decided to revoke this licence.”