Chelmsford festival plans will lead to ‘substantial noise nuisance’ and disruption

Strict conditions are being demanded to allow festivals to continue at the same spot in Chelmsford where a rave last year led to nearby roads being closed for more than two hours.

Last year the licensing committee heard Essex Police saying the incidents which took place on July 24 and September 4 were “unacceptable”.

Up to 12 events a year have been proposed at Wheelers Farm in Little Waltham – such as secret cinemas and small festivals – with amplified music between the hours of 1pm and 11pm on Saturday and Sunday including bank holidays.

But the force had said if granted the original plan would have undermined crime and disorder, public nuisance and public safety objectives of the Licensing Act 2003. It has now demanded that 23 conditions are put in place.

The location is largely within the same footprint as events held during 2021. On those occasions considerable public nuisance was caused to the residents of Little Waltham from drunk festival goers and vehicles being abandoned in residential and unlit rural roads.

Complaints of a rave were first reported to Essex Police on July 24 at 3pm.

By 11pm, there were reports of a strong smell of cannabis and concerns a serious road accident was going to happen.

At 11.30pm, Essex Police were told crowds had entered McDonald’s and staff were being prevented from locking the doors.

On September 4, after the road had been closed, Essex Police received reports of cars racing up and down Essex Regiment Way.

Disturbances were reported by staff at the McDonald’s with a lot of customers entering the premises at once and being argumentative and aggressive to staff.

Furthermore, the safety of road users was seriously jeopardised by vehicles stopping and turning on the main A130 and pedestrians walking along the carriageway and grass verges.

A statement from Essex Police to the committee, that will hear the application on Friday May 20, said: “The location is ill advisable for events of this type unless numbers are strictly managed and the event organisers have in place (and oversee) a robust traffic management plan.

“Essex Police have a duty to ensure that an application of this nature do not adversely impact on the community in respect of crime and disorder, public safety, and nuisance.”

A statement from Waltham Parish Council said: “The concern of the parish council is that even with better traffic control in place this is a difficult area to manage as the access to the venue is only a few yards from a roundabout on the busy Essex Regiment Way.

“The parish council contends that the reality is that this is not a suitable area for such events to be held as it is so difficult to manage the traffic and for those attending the event to be safe and in addition it is too close to residential properties and the village centre thus results in a substantial noise nuisance.”

The organisers have subsequently agreed to all conditions including capping the maximum number of attendees at 1,500 requested by Essex Police, Chelmsford City Council environmental health officer Izzie Daniels and Chelmsford City Council Public Health and Protection Services.

However, only the representation from Public Health and Protection Services has been withdrawn.

In its decision at the licensing review in December last year the committee said: “Whilst there may be different views on what the acceptable capacity limit for events should be, the committee itself is satisfied (taking into account its own local knowledge of the location) that a capacity limit of 1,500 patrons would not undermine the licensing objectives, subject to there being an adequate Safety Advisory Group approved traffic management plan being in place and adhered to.

“Having regard to the traffic chaos that occurred on the September 4 and the information before it at the present time, the committee considers that the imposition of this condition limiting capacity is appropriate for the promotion of public safety.”

Members who will decide the application at meeting on Friday can grant the application, on the terms and conditions applied for, grant the application with any other conditions or refuse the application in whole or in part.

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Piers Meyler

Local Democracy Reporter