Writtle dance music festival plan gives cause for concern

Plans to host an electronic music festival in the Essex countryside have sparked fears from villagers over window-rattling bass and DJs swearing.

A decision on whether to grant ZENFest, a one-day dance music festival expected to attract roughly 4,000 people, a premises licence was discussed at a Chelmsford City Council meeting on Friday March 31.

The festival is set to be held at a new location in King’s Farm, Writtle, on August 19 this year, and event organisers at the meeting said the festival would have a noise management plan, with a team on site monitoring the sound desk and levels in areas around the festival.

Co-founder Stefan Poelman told the licensing committee: “Noise propagation to noise sensitive areas is a big part of our operation, and monitoring that. We work very closely on event planning and on live days with our appointed festival-specific acoustic management team, F1 Acoustics, who have a wide portfolio of festival clients including Glastonbury and Boomtown.”

He also said foul language was “not acceptable” for local residents, stressing all the music would be recorded, rather than live, and that microphones and public address systems would only be used in emergency situations.

But a resident at the meeting said the number of events in the site had increased and he had previously struggled to get hold of licence holders to complain.

John Hammond said in a written representation: “Previous events have included vibrating bass, amplified swearing by the hosts and repetitive amplified commentary.

“That meant family and friends could not sit in the garden and I could not listen to radio or TV in my house, even with windows closed.”

Writtle Parish Council also objected to the application, as did ward member Councillor Andrew Thorpe-Apps (Con, Writtle), who argued the location is unsuitable for large-scale events.

He said: “I lodged my objection to this application with a degree of reluctance to be honest, because generally I am supportive of events being held in the parish.”

He later said: “Unfortunately, events at King’s Farm have tended to be a different story and I’ve received a good number of complaints about events held at this particular location over the last two years.”

In addition to concerns over noise and foul language, Cllr Thorpe-Apps said this event would attract 4,000 people arriving by car and foot, which would impact traffic and road safety.

The festival would be one day and would end at 11pm. Low-level checks would take place the day before, with main sound checks done on the morning of the festival.

ZENFest is moving from its previous home in Kelvedon Hall, Brentwood, where it was hosted last year. Acts scheduled to perform this year include Toman, The Shapeshifters, Seb Zito, Rich NxT, Lauren Lo Sung and Fabe.

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Charlie Ridler

Local Democracy Reporter