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Big Debate: Festival noise at Victoria Park

PUBLISHED: 01:40 08 June 2013 | UPDATED: 01:40 08 June 2013

Lovebox

Lovebox

Archant

A festival in east London’s Victoria Park has reopened the controversy about the effect commercial events have on families in the area over noise. They put up with thousands of revellers on their doorstep, sometimes weekend after weekend. But what is the balance between public festivals, which earn the East End £250,000 a year, and peace for residents?

Widow Hazel White, at 79, a retired hospital ward clerk living in her canalside cottage next to the park, explains what it’s like:

I don’t object to people enjoying themselves—I’m not an old misery guts.

But the organisers of these events don’t seem to realise the noise they cause. The noise and thump, thump, thumping knocks your socks off, I’m telling you.

The misery? I had 13 solid hours of it. The pounding was unbelievable. It knocked me for six—I couldn’t do anything, eat or sleep. I just sat in the chair all day.

You could feel the vibrations on the floor, like the shock waves from a bomb dropping. I don’t call that music.

Goodness knows how all the children living near the park got to sleep. It wasn’t fair.

More events this summer will be ‘murder’. I dread the summer. You’re entitled to a summer and a bit of peace, but they think in their ‘wisdom’ they can do what they like.

Who’s responsible? It’s a public park—the council doesn’t own it. The council manages it as custodians.

Queen Victoria said when Vicky Park opened in the 1840s that it was an open space for the people—the lungs of east London for those living in the slums to get fresh air. It’s always been a place for people to come with their families.

That original idea has been lost—and that’s the Mayor’s responsibility.

Public consultation? The council sends out letters saying there’s a forthcoming event, blah, blah, and you can get on to the events licensing person.

But that’s a waste of time. It’s all cut and dried. Public consultations aren’t worth it. You try and raise objections—it’s useless. It makes you angry.

Marc Francis, our local councillor, ran a campaign last year and tried to deal with it, bless him. He’s a good man, but it came to nothing because these people just do what they like.

My message to entrepreneurs? Don’t be so greedy! They make a lot of money which is at the forefront of everything, these days. At the end of the day, they do what they want. It’s all greed. The days of listening to the public have gone.

The solution? There is a balance. Those responsible for licensing these events should sit down and think where the tent with loud music should be pitched, not so close to people’s homes.

Last week’s event was 30 yards from my house, right next to all the residential properties along here.

It needs planning—sitting down and talking through sensibly, seeing everyone’s point of view.

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Rania Khan, a member of Tower Hamlets mayor Lutfur Rahman’s independent administration responsible for Culture, explains the benefits to the East End of renting out its parkland to commercial events:

The popular Victoria Park events attract international performers and raise significant income for Tower Hamlets Council in this time of austerity.

Other boroughs make cuts to their parks, but Tower Hamlets has led a significant investment programme in Victoria Park.

Income from events is reinvested into the park which pays for free community events. Other activities also go on in our public parks, such as football and cricket, which are subsidised, using this income.

The park, as a regular host of major events, was redesigned with the festival site in mind. Protecting the improvements is a priority, such as the Chinese Pagoda, Burdett Coutts Fountain, Hub building and children’s playgrounds.

The festivals and events do not take place in these areas, nor where there are sports pitches.

I understand that events can be disruptive for some residents. We do everything to minimise this, which includes having additional council officers making sure festivals run well, licensing conditions are met, noise levels are monitored and prompt action is taken should it be necessary.

Organisers deploy teams to manage the waste around the perimeter and patrol the area to make sure there is no build-up of litter.

Events like Lovebox over three days in July are confined to a specific, fenced-off area. It is necessary to shield the event site to minimise the movement of vehicles and people working there. Victoria Park is vast, measuring 86ha. Commercial events only use 16.5ha, leaving 80 per cent of the park for general use. Between events, the area is usually opened for public access. Promoters are required to pay to restore the site after use. We hold bonds used to reinstate any damage to grass areas. Disruption during these works is only temporary.

I believe on balance that these events benefit the park and the community by investing the income we get from the events.


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