Hackney Council has announced that it would like to hold 'major public events' on Hackney Marshes every summer. To do this it needs permission in principle from the Planning Inspectorate (known as PINS). Before the PINS application, the council will be consulting local people and groups.
This is the council's preliminary letter which HMUG received on 20 February. Consultation runs from 26 February for eight weeks, i.e. till 22nd April. Permission would be for five years, and apply between 1st May and 31st August. Each event would still go through the council's events approval process, which was revised in 2011-12 with an apparent view to increasing income from green space events.
The obvious questions are whether the council can manage such events without disproportionate loss of the use of the marshes to local people, and without lasting damage to the marshes' ecological value and amenities. On the evidence of last year's Radio 1 Hackney Weekend their ability is questionable. It closed off large parts of the marsh for 4 weeks and the scars are visible and possibly permanent.
The council's 2011 Events Policy aims to hold 3 such events every summer on the marshes, which if organised in the same way would close down the marshes for the whole summer.
We'll be pulling together evidence and opinions, and doing as much as we can to publicise and talk to people. If you have information, anecdotes or photos please post them here or send them to us. If you have time & energy to give to working on this, please step forward!
My concern is the potential for damage to trees and paths caused by machinery used to transport fencing and equipment to set the venue up. Last year heavy machinery caused terrible rutting and cut through a memorial tree circle near Daubney Bridge. Access routes for machinery should be well-defined and carefully controlled if this is going to become a regular feature. I'll try and send a photo of the damage.
From David Rees, reposted by request:
I love live music and enjoyed last years gig – got a free ticket! - but was unhappy that the Marsh was closed to us all for 4 weeks either side of the 2 festival days, and that a major cycle route into central London was shut for a long period. I also worry that the Council will milk these events for income but fail to remedy the damage to the park which intense use will cause.
Smaller, less security-intense events could be held in this very large space provided the Council can manage the ecological and financial aspects, but are we confident of this?
Consultation launched yesterday. Attached are Council press release and the consultation document.
Council pages here: www.hackney.gov.uk/hackney-marshes-consultation.htm
While I don't have any objection to events per se on the marsh (in fact I'd personally welcome community events), what I think many people here will object to is the heavy-handed de facto privatisation/enclosures model we experienced last year.
As a bare minimum in my view any event should not restrict access to the Marsh for more than a day either side of the event. And leave all paths around the perimeter open for local people (and fauna) to access at all times.
The event organisers should have a legally enforceable duty to return the Marsh to its previous state. Harsh fines for the destruction of trees or habitat should be imposed and organisers should make a significant financial contribution to conservation efforts on the Marshes.
In addition, last year's event resulted in a significant amount of rubbish being dumped into the Lea and a plan needs to be put in place to ensure the Lea ends up cleaner not filthier than it already is.
In short, I think it can be done but last year was a very poor precedent and if the above safeguards are not met, I would wholeheartedly oppose the plans.
The council should be encouraged to manage the environmental impact of the events through contracts, for example requiring use of BS8901 sustainable event management system, and monitoring waste, generator fuel, transport, and minimising vehicle impact.
There's only one way to guarantee minimal impact and that's not to allow private entertainment events to take place on our marshes. I'm not against public entertainment events but believe that they should take place in appropriate locations which do not involve the prevention of access to common land and disturbance to a unique and important habitat that has already suffered so much damage due to Olympic activity. Concerts should be held in venues, including outside venues, especially suited to the needs of the events and the audience which do not cause damage to common land. Hackney Marshes is still suffering the effects of the last festival 8 months ago, see here http://saveleytonmarsh.wordpress.com/2013/02/27/future-of-marshes-a...
At central library yesterday the consultation poster & brochure weren't on show. I asked for them at the Information desk and they couldn't produce them. Nul for effort, LBH.
Letter from cllr McShane in today's gazette pleading (a) weather (b) 'demand'. Sent a brief letter to keep the pot boiling - deadline for next week's letters is today.
Letter to Gazette
Cllr McShane thinks that the 'demand' for mega festivals is an argument for holding them on Hackney Marshes. There is 'demand' for model car racing on the Marsh, as evidenced by the informal circuit by Marshgate Bridge, but the council has just taken steps to stop it. There are people who would like to practise golf or hold barbecues on the Marsh or ride trail motorbikes in Wick Community Woodland. The council doesn't allow those either, despite the 'demand'. The council's job is to judge whether an activity would damage the green space or interfere with existing appropriate uses, not give in to 'demand'.
The council made promises about Hackney Weekend 2012 which it turned out to be humanly impossible to keep. They are making the same promises again about future unspecified mega events. Cllr McShane must accept that he's not Captain Picard of the Starship Enterprise: just saying 'Make it so' won't turn a drawing on his computer screen into reality on the green spaces that we walk in every day.
There are venues designed for mega events, notably the new Olympic Park, but there is only one Hackney Marsh. Gazette readers will find full details of HMUG's concerns on our web pages at sustainablehackney.org.uk/hmug.