Field festivals and raves survive licence removal

Festivals and raves will be allowed to continue on a field in Chelmsford despite concerns that further events “could potentially lead to a very serious incident or fatality”.

Two events at Wheelers Farm, listed as the Original Festival in Little Waltha, on July 24 and September 4 led to such significant disruption that Chelmsford City Council licensing committee was asked to revoke the licence by Essex Police.

That request was declined by city councillors, but instead conditions have now been imposed to limit numbers to 1,500 revellers from a maximum of 5,000 over a maximum of 4 weekends a year.

Festival-goers descended on the BJP Productions event on September 4 and Essex Regiment Way had to be closed for more than two hours while the venue was cleared out and cars and pedestrians cleared from the carriageway.

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

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.

Up to that point, Essex Police had already received numerous calls from members of the public reporting traffic concerns including reports of vehicles travelling the wrong way around roundabouts.

Vehicles were seen driving over central reservations to get past, which was made worse by many people parking dangerously along the road to avoid waiting in the queue.

A statement from Essex Police to Chelmsford City Council licensing hearing on Friday, December 3, said: “If this event was to take place again in the future it could potentially lead to a very serious incident or fatality.

“The event site is situated adjacent to the A130, this is a main route from Chelmsford to Braintree. No public transport is available to and from the site. Anyone attending would need to drive or get a taxi.

“The location and infrastructure surrounding the event is just not appropriate to hold such large-scale events.

“Similar incidents have happened with both events. Extra measures had been put in place for the second event to go ahead but even with measures the same concerns have been witnessed.

“No previous events have been held in this location and it was not foreseen how much disruption this would cause to members of the public using nearby roads.

“This has had a huge impact on the local community and residents living within the vicinity.

“On September 4 due to the volume of traffic and congestion on Essex Regiment Way there was no choice but to put a diversion in place which diverted traffic into Little Waltham village causing an impact to the community with concerns raised of it potentially becoming a regular occurrence.”

In its decision the committee said: “The Committee considers that the incidents which took place on the July 24 and September 4 and which resulted in Essex Police seeking a review of the licence were unacceptable.

“The three licensing objectives cited by Essex Police in their application were engaged and had been undermined to various degrees.

“The incidents – in particular the need to respond to and manage the major traffic management issues – had been a drain on police resources. In addition, noise nuisance had been experienced by local residents and there had been some isolated incidents (albeit relatively low level) of anti-social behaviour on the part of patrons connected to the parking on Essex Regiment Way.”

However it added: “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.”

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Piers Meyler

Local Democracy Reporter