Noise crackdown on fairground music festivals – throwing events like This Is Tomorrow into doubt
Strict new limits have been imposed on all music festivals to be held at Newcastle’s exhibition grounds, after an outcry from neighbors over last year’s This Is Tomorrow concerts.
More than 90 complaints have been lodged over the ‘horrendous’ disturbance caused by the four-day festival last September to neighbors in Jesmond, with city council leaders admitting the event ‘did not go well’. But organizers will now have to abide by a tough set of rules designed to prevent a repeat of these issues – including tougher restrictions on noise levels.
The move will cast doubt on the ability of festivals on the scale of This Is Tomorrow to return to the exhibition grounds and could have a major knock-on effect on the finances of Urban Green Newcastle, the charity that now runs the Newcastle parks.
Read more: Plea not to repeat ‘awful’ This is Tomorrow as Newcastle park chiefs bid for more festivals
It comes after a lengthy and at times turbulent Newcastle City Council hearing last week, in which Urban Green sought a new license to hold events and sell alcohol in the park. The organisation, which was given control of the city’s green spaces by the council in 2019, has applied for permission to hold up to 20 events a year with between 500 and 15,000 attendees – including just four will be “high impact” occasions with in excess of 5,000 people, lasting no more than three days each.
Although the local authority’s licensing subcommittee agreed to grant a licence, it comes with 40 conditions – after the council’s chief safety and regulatory officer, Ed Foster, demanded that strict limits are imposed. They include a maximum of nine days per year for events with between 500 and 15,000 people, a stipulation to give six months’ notice before a large event takes place, noise assessments tailored to each event and a requirement to completely close events before 10 p.m. when they take place before a weekday.
Committee advisers also backed a crucial restriction on noise from music festivals, limiting it to no more than five decibels above existing background levels in the nearest homes. Urban Green had wanted that limit to be 10 decibels higher and his lawyer, Duncan Craig, claimed the council’s tougher demand would prevent any concerts from taking place.
Representatives of the charity also argued that large cash-generating events were essential to pay for the upkeep of the 33 parks it runs and to fund smaller, community-focused activities that “wouldn’t have simply no place” otherwise.
At the hearing, Jesmond’s labor adviser Felicity Mendelson described last year’s This Is Tomorrow event as ‘awful’ and said four events a year of this size would ‘not be acceptable’ . Local resident David Allen insisted it was possible to host a large-scale concert without causing major problems – telling the committee that noise levels had been successfully reduced during the festival last September, following to complaints.
The terms of the license, granted on Friday afternoons, allow the sale of alcohol and the provision of activities such as concerts and film screenings until 10:30 p.m.
Jon Riley, acting chief executive of Urban Green Newcastle, said: “Although this is not the decision we had hoped for, we accept the decision of Newcastle City Council, which reduces the number of licensed events that Urban Green Newcastle can hold exhibitions at the venue over a 12 month period. Today’s decision will impact the range of community and cultural events we can present, but we will continue to work with our partners and local communities to deliver a program of diverse, inclusive and exciting events that encourage people to visit and enjoy the exhibition center. .”