The applicant Stardust Festivals Ltd, has applied for the grant of a Premises Licence in respect of Great Lines Heritage Park, Brompton Road, Gillingham, Kent, ME7 5DH.
Representations have been received from the Police and the Environmental Protection Team although the latter were subsequently withdrawn following agreement with the applicant on proposed conditions.
The Chairman asked those present to introduce themselves and explained the process that the hearing would follow as outlined in the agenda.
Kent Police produced additional information prior to the hearing but as one of the documents was requested as being restricted, it was agreed by the Panel that all the information would not be included or considered as part of the hearing.
The Senior Licensing Officer stated that, in accordance with the Licensing Act 2003, the Council had received an application from Stardust Festivals Ltd to grant a Premises Licence in respect ofGreat Lines Heritage Park, Brompton Road, Gillingham, Kent, ME7 5DH.
The application requested a 4-day event per calendar year for films, plays, live and recorded music, performance of dance for the following hours: -
Friday 1700-2200, Saturday 1100-2230, Sunday 1030-1830 and Monday 1030 – 1830 and in addition the supply of alcohol on the premises on Friday 1700-2145, Saturday 1100-2200, Sunday 1400-2130 and Monday 1030-1830.
The Senior Licensing Officer explained that a copy of the application, the local plan, additional documents provided with volunteered and agreed conditions between the Applicant and the Environmental Protection Team, the Noise Management Plan, advertisement of the event, Kent Police’s submission and the Applicant’s response to the Police’s objections were all Appendices included in the agenda.
The proposed licensable activities for the Monday were not included with the initial application and were missing from the initial application form at Appendix A. The Licensing Team were made aware that Monday should be included but due to an oversight the amendment to the application was not passed to the Responsible Authorities until 22 December 2022.
The Senior Licensing Officer confirmed that the application had been correctly advertised in the local press, which included the Monday, and notices had been displayed at the premises for the required timescales, Appendix E in the agenda showed a copy of the blue notice.
Representatives from the Environmental Protection Team had since been withdrawn following an agreement with the application on the proposed conditions.
The Chairman invited the Applicant’s representative, Philip Kolvin KC, to present the application.
Mr Kolvin KC Legal Representative for the Stardust Festivals Ltd explained the licence was for a 4-day festival at the Great Lines Heritage Park on the last May Back Holiday weekend. He explained Friday 26 May would be an opera / classical event which would finish at 2145 with a capacity of 5,000 people. Saturday would be a dance event which would finish at 2200 with a capacity of 25,000 people with the usual array of bars, food concessions and fairground rides. Sunday - 80’s, 90’s and 00’s dance music event which would finish by 2130 with a capacity of 15,000 people and Monday, a family community day finishing at 1800 with a capacity of 15,000 people including arts and crafts, food, fairground rides and a children’s disco. These would all contribute to a diverse mix which was needed to support the area, economically.
He confirmed Kent Police had objected to the application and explained that his client was intent on working in partnership with the Police to make this a successful event.
The event would contribute to the community and local economy and would support local musicians and provide work for local and young people. In total 50 local traders would be offered pitches on site, 20 local bands would be asked to perform and following year one, at least 25% of all those employed to work at the event (approximately 1,000) would be local people.
The Legal Representative for Stardust Festival Ltd explained the process for the festival, a site had been selected, discussions had taken place with the Local Authority, Safety Advisory Groups (SAG) were formed and meeting regularly. Working sub-groups would feed into the SAG where all relevant plans were written and approved. All elements of the festival including noise, crime, crowd management, welfare and security would be compiled into the Event Safety Management Plan (ESMP) which would be routinely updated and about a month before the event would be finalised, signed off and approved.
In conjunction with the Event Liaison Team (ELT), Kent Police were offered to be based within the control room to ensure the event ran smoothly. A de-brief, following the event, would be held to discuss any changes that could be made for the following year.
The Legal Representative for Stardust Festivals Ltd explained that the Kent Police’s objections were that Gillingham High Street was a Cumulative Impact Policy area (CIP) and had a Public Space Protection Order (PSPO) in place and the Police’s concerns were the access and egress to the site via one gate. He stated there would be multiple lanes across the site with multiple queues not just one queue. He also brought the Panel’s attention to Stardust Festivals Ltd response to the Police’s representation which was shown in Appendix G of the agenda.
The Legal Representative for Stardust Festivals Ltd explained that if Kent Police had any objections to the Traffic Management Plan, the place to do this was at the SAG meetings, which they had been invited to. He thought the Police had not yet attended any of these meetings.
He went through the Noise Management Plan which had been produced by Vanguardia and was shown in Appendix D of the agenda.
There had been no objections to the event by any local residents, any of the Ward Councillors, Licensing, Highways, Medway Hospital, the MOD or Kent and Medway Fire and Rescue Authority. Although the Environmental Protection Team had submitted an objection, Stardust Festivals Ltd had worked closely with them and an agreement had been reached and the Environmental Protection’s objections had been withdrawn.
The Legal Representative for Stardust Festivals Ltd explained, in detail, the conditions that were shown in Appendix C of the agenda and that the applicant continued working in partnership with Medway Council. Five partnership meetings had already been held as part of the SAG and two public consultations had taken place, one in person at Gillingham Library and one online.
Kent Police asked about the proposed train engineering works that were scheduled for that weekend which would mean there would be no train services from London to Gillingham. Ben Jones from Last Mile, on behalf of Stardust Festivals Ltd, confirmed that the engineering works would take place on Saturday, Sunday and Monday and there would be no trains running from Gravesend to Gillingham, meaning that special bus services would be operated from North Greenwich to the venue. He explained that when people booked their tickets for the event online, they would be given an option to purchase bus tickets in advance allowing the organisers to understand the numbers and timed departments that people would require.
Ben Jones explained that the pickup and drop off for those buses would be in Prince Arthur Road. Stuart Jessop, Legal Representative for Kent Police, asked whether that road would be wide enough for the number of buses. Ben Jones explained that they were working with officers from Medway Highways who had suggested the buses stop in Prince Arthur Road. Stuart Jessop confirmed that the Police had been in touch with the British Transport Police (BTP), and they were unaware of this event happening and there had been no contact between the applicant and the BTP. Ben Jones confirmed that he, himself, had no direct contact with the BTP but that was not uncommon at this stage.
Four main areas for Park and Ride facilities would be set up – Greenwich University, the Chatham Historic Dockyard Trust, the Pentagon Shopping Centre and The Brook Multistorey carpark. Ben Jones confirmed they had been working with Medway Council and the car park at Gun Wharf could be used on Saturday, Sunday and Monday. In addition, a green field site in Rochester had been identified with 1,500 spaces.
PC Dan Hunt, Licensing Officer, Kent Police asked whether the replacement buses would be available throughout the day and evening if people wished to leave the event before it had finished. Ben Jones confirmed buses would be available during the whole event. PC Dan Hunt also asked regarding the plan of getting the right people on the right buses and Ben Jones assured PC Hunt that this was part of the Traffic Management Plan
The Panel questioned the applicant.
The Applicant explained to the Panel his background and the events he had been involved in. He confirmed that the tickets for the events were already on sale, subject to normal licensing procedures, and that more tickets would be sold for the Saturday night but due to a 25-30% drop out rate the maximum attending would be 25,000. He also explained that that there would be 1,500 staff on site on Saturday.
Following a question that the plans had changed since the agenda was despatched regarding the train engineering works, Ben Jones explained that the Park and Ride contracts had not yet been signed but they had been given costs for these spaces. He also said that he was working with Medway Highways to extend the Controlled Parking Zones (CPZ) to protect local residents.
The Applicant confirmed that a walking route to collect all the litter around the area would be set up and once the Traffic Management Plan was agreed and approved, they would be looking at the routes within the ingress and egress and would pay a contractor for external patrols. Photographs would be taken before and after the event and would be reviewed at the SAG de-brief meeting.
The Applicant confirmed that they had been in talks with the Emergency Planning Officer at Medway Hospital and the Ambulance Service to discuss the impact the event would have on Medway Hospital and any contingency plans would be included in the ESMP. Stardust Festivals Ltd would have their own medical services including nurses, doctors and treatment room on site for the event.
The Security Coordinator for Stardust Festival Ltd understood there were problems in Gillingham High Street and that there would be extra SIA registered Security Staff around the area and if they needed further support from the Police, it would be requested.
A Panel Member asked whether people could bring in their own picnics and alcohol for the Friday Opera / Classical night. The Applicant confirmed that customers would not be able to bring in their own food or drink but 50 food vendors selling food and alcohol would be available to cater for all tastes.
Concerns regarding the road closures were discussed. Brompton Road would be closed to cars due to the location of the bus pickup / drop off and Prince Arthur Road would be closed for buses. Ben Jones explained that a Traffic Impact Assessment had taken place on 13, 14 and 15 January between 4pm – 7pm and 2,038 vehicles had been logged. Diversions would be included in the Traffic Management Plan and signage would be in place for these road closures, however the client was working with Medway Highways as these diversion plans had not yet been decided.
The Chairman invited Kent Police to present their objections. Stuart Jessop, Legal Representative for Kent Police went through their concerns which were shown in Appendix F of the agenda, and these included:
Concerns regarding safety – these were predominately due to the engineering works that would be taking place that weekend and that less people would now be using the trains and more by bus and he considered there was a lack of detail on how the event organisers would manage the process including the locations and timings of these buses, the ingress and egress of customers and the fact that it would be near a CIP area.
Issue of public safety or disorder – the Saturday would be the main issue of concern for the Police due to the nature of the event with people possibly being intoxicated before, during or after the event. Days 3 and 4 were also of a concern due to the numbers of people attending the event.
PC Dan Hunt explained that the application was not just to authorise a license for an individual event, the Panel w being asked to approve a license for a 4-day event each year going forward, which could bring increased risk for the future.
There was also concern regarding the CIP; Gillingham High Street had a high number of alcohol related crimes, anti-social behaviour and a high amount of hospital and ambulance call outs. Although the event would not be located in the CIP it would only be 50 yards away and would impact the Gillingham High Street area. If a license was approved and next year there were no engineering works, there could be 8,750 (45%) of customers going through Gillingham to the train station.
Kent Police had liaised with colleagues at the previous event site, Lydd Airport, and at the end of the festival the site had been littered with tens of thousands of Nitrous Oxide (Nos) canisters. In their Event Safety Plan, it had been agreed that these items would be confiscated, and the customer would not be allowed into the site. There was evidence that these items were seized but the customers were allowed to remain on site.
The Panel questioned the representatives of Kent Police.
PC Dan Hunt confirmed that he had spoken to the British Transport Police and although they were extremely hard to get hold of, he managed to speak to the nearest depot which was Ashford to seek their views and they were not aware of the planned event.
Stuart Jessop, Legal Representative for Kent Police explained that their main concerns were the locality of the event, the number of people attending, especially on the Saturday, and the lack of detail regarding transport provisions.
Summing up, Kent Police highlighted that the two main areas of concern were the lack of detail regarding transport and crime and disorder.
Summing up, Philip Kolvin KC, Legal Representative for Stardust Festivals Ltd confirmed that his client had been dealing with Medway Officers, Members, Commercial Teams for six months and had done everything that had been asked of them. They had consulted, engaged and held public consultations and provided action plans.
With regards to Festival Planning, he said that it was not possible to wait until every plan had been approved; organisers had to apply suitability in advance. His client had a competent and experienced team and could be relied on in accordance with the Licensing Objectives. He reminded the Panel that the event could only happen once the Event Safety Management Plan had been finally signed off and approved which included 29 separate documents.
Philip Kolvin explained that the previous event at Lydd Airport, Kent Police had reported that any violence was non-existent, people were just enjoying themselves. There were 2 arrests on site, one was a trader and one a customer. The Licensing Team had no issues with that event. He confirmed that nitrous oxide canisters had been found and were used on site even though amnesty bins were provided. Police confirmed they would not remove nitrous oxide canisters from site as they were not illegal. In total, there had been 39 drug related arrests and 10 medical issues.
He confirmed a 3 metre steel shield fence would be erected around the perimeter of the Great Lines Heritage Park and constantly monitored by security staff during the event.
His client had known about the engineering works since November 2022 and contingency plans were in place. If Kent Police had attended the SAG meetings, they would have been aware of the alternative provisions.
During their deliberations, Panel members decided to adjourn the hearing to allow for further information to be sought from Medway Highways regarding the Traffic Management Plan for the 4-day event.
The hearing was reconvened on Monday, 13 February 2023 and Medway Council’s Head of Transportation and Parking was in attendance.
The Applicant had produced additional information regarding traffic management for the event and, there being no objections from Kent Police, this was accepted by the Panel for consideration.
The Chairman invited Michael Edwards, Head of Transportation and Parking at Medway Council, to speak on the additional information and he explained that he had worked extensively with the Applicant. The information related to the Traffic Management Plan, the Traffic Survey and Impact Assessment and the Transport Use Forecast and Impact Assessment. Michael Edwards outlined the various proposed road closures on the different days of the event. He explained that the closure of Prince Arthur Road on 27 to 29 May was principally to allow for bus loading and unloading. He referred to the access plans for local businesses and taxi/private hire vehicles and also the mitigation plans for the planned engineering works on the rail network.
Asked to expand on the diversion routes, Michael Edwards and Ben Jones outlined the routes as set out in Appendix 5 of the Traffic Management Plan. It was explained that these had been devised by a local consultant and were based upon the diversion routes that had been put in place for the Medway Mile.
Stuart Jessop, on behalf of Kent Police, asked for clarity on the queue capacities shown in various tables in the Transport Use Forecast and Management Plan as these appeared to show that at times there would be 1000’s of people above the queue capacity trying to use certain bus services. Ben Jones responded that there would be four buses in four minutes meaning that the queue would be constantly moving. It was anticipated that at certain times the queue would exceed capacity which was why the plan included mitigation measures such as hold and release points.
Stuart Jessop asked if customers were being made aware of the planned rail engineering works and Reece Miller said that the website for the event advised customers to catch the shuttle bus from North Greenwich for £12.50 return. Ben Jones added that the Communications Plan that would be put in place in the lead up to the event would advise customers about the engineering works.
PC Hunt asked about the number of shuttle buses that would be required to meet demand and where they would be kept. Ben Jones agreed that it would be around 110 buses and these would be kept in two staging areas which could accommodate 70 buses in total. Regional bus services and the rail replacement service would have a different loading/unloading point on a separate walking point. Buses would not wait all day on the road. For example, Kingsferry buses would return to their depot.
A Panel member expressed surprise that more information on traffic and parking had not been provided for the start of the hearing on 20 January and also that an officer from Medway Highways did not chair meetings of the Traffic Management Sub-Group. From the minutes of the sub-group meeting held on 6 February 2023, it was noted that the Traffic Management Plan had been agreed in principle, subject to further work to finalise the details.
A Member sought clarification on when bus operators had first been told of the event as the additional documents seemed to suggest that this was not until 8 February. Ben Jones said the consultant had advised that it was best to tell them once the road closures had been decided. The aim was for the plan to be agreed by 25 February, the deadline for the Traffic Order.
On the diversion routes, a Member questioned whether buses would be able to use Ingram Road as it was considered to be too narrow. Michael Edwards advised that this was subject to review and that there were ongoing discussions. To date, Arriva had not raised any concerns.
Asked about parking enforcement, Ben Jones said that he had met with officers from Medway’s Parking Team on 8 February and it was intended to appoint a private contractor. There would be dedicated enforcement officers for the event and space had been made available for their vehicles. Final details would be included in a later version of the Traffic Management Plan.
On residents’ ability to leave and access their properties by car, Michael Edwards said that this should not be impaired, although there would be an increase in traffic. Ben Jones added that residents would be able to display passes in their vehicles and that marshals would allow them access.
In response to a Member’s question on how visitors to the event would travel to it and where from, Ben Jones gave a breakdown of the forecast percentages for each day.
In response to a question on support for local businesses, Reece Miller, the Applicant, said that there had been leaflet drops and a residents’ meeting, which had been attended by a local fire alarm business. Also, questions could be asked online via the website. Past experience had shown that events such as the one planned provided an uplift for local businesses, such as shops and taxi services, due to the increased footfall in the area. Engagement was ongoing through consultation meetings.
Questioned about the accuracy of the traffic survey results, given that it had been conducted after Christmas, Michael Edwards said that variances were taken into account when analysing the results and that this had not been a bad time to conduct such a survey.
On the mitigation for the high levels of traffic on Chatham Hill, Ben Jones said that there would be advance warning of the event through signage to try to reduce road usage. Discussions were taking pace to use Medway’s variable message signs to provide reactive information on any incidents. Asked specifically about Medway Tunnel, Michael Edwards said that lessons had been learnt from the recent incident and the risk should be low.
On the effect of shutting Railway Street on the taxi rank, Ben Jones explained that the closures would only be for a short time, around two minutes.
Summing up for Kent Police, Stuart Jessop said that the police had real concerns that the Panel did not have enough information before it on the final details in order to make a decision. There were serious concerns about leaving the final details for the Safety Advisory Group to make through mitigation plans. Local residents and businesses would not know if they had representations until they knew the detail of the road closures. Bus companies had only been consulted on 8 February meaning the Panel was unaware of their views. This lack of detail made it difficult for the Panel to make a decision as it needed to scrutinise final plans and mitigation measures.
Stuart Jessop also raised concerns about the minutes of the Traffic Management Sub-Group meeting of 6 February, and that this sub-group was chaired by the Applicant. Referring to a comment by a police representative in the minutes, that although there was agreement in principle, further work on the plans needed to continue, Stuart Jessop said that this work should have been finalised by now, so that the Panel had a substantive application before it to determine whether it satisfied the Licensing Objectives.
Summing up for the Applicant, Simon Taylor, (Solicitor) said that the Applicant and the Council’s Head of Transportation and Parking had given professional and honest answers to the Panel’s questions. The plans for the event had been approved in principle with the detail still to be finalised. Since the sub-group meeting on 6 February there had been further work, for example on the park and ride scheme. Ensign had travelled the route to check for any issues. A wet weather plan had also been developed with matting to be laid at the entrances. It would have been impossible for all information to be provided at the application stage as it would have been too early to finalise contracts at such an early stage.
Simon Taylor said that the licensing system required representations and the applicant had consulted with the Licensing Authority, the Highways Authority and also the public at an early stage to encourage residents and businesses to make representations to the Panel. There would be further consultations with residents and local businesses. The Traffic Management Plan was a important issue and had been worked on over several months with the Highways Authority. Work would continue to finesse it. The Police had started to engage with the applicant so there was time to determine the level of Police Officers, marshals and security staff required. Such details could not be finalised yet.
Simon Taylor said that the Panel could ensure that the event was safe through the use of conditions. All plans had to be approved before the event could go ahead. The Panel had to consider whether the conditions listed in the 20 January agenda report were sufficiently robust. As referenced in that report, table top exercises had been put in place to recognise certain risks. At present one further table top exercise was planned for April, but if the Panel considered that there should be one on traffic management, that can be added. Additionally, the Panel could consider requiring plans to be approved by the Licensing Authority, rather than the Safety Advisory Group.
The Chairman asked all parties to leave the room for the Panel considered its decision which would be sent in writing.
The Panel, having considered all the written and oral evidence presented at both hearings on 20 January and 13 February 2023, unanimously decided to refuse the application from Stardust Festivals Ltd for a Premises License for Great Lines Heritage Park, Brompton Road, Gillingham, Kent, ME7 5DH.
The Panel determined that the event posed public safety concerns and would likely cause a nuisance to the public.
The Panel considered that such a large-scale event over four days, would have a negative effect on the local community, especially given the proposed volume of attendees, which would likely impact the transport services in the Medway area.
The Panel was particularly concerned about the number of road closures during the event, the volume of traffic in the Medway area and surrounding routes, the parking provisions and the impact it would have on car journeys, bus routes and train services. Consequently, the Panel deemed the event could pose a detriment to the daily lives of local residents and businesses which could suffer a loss of trade.
The Panel also considered the plans submitted by the Applicant were not sufficiently finalised to alleviate its concerns regarding the event, including security provisions and there was still a high degree of uncertainty with the overall planning and management of the event.
In the absence of final plans and mitigation measures, the Panel was not satisfied that all necessary measures would be in place by the time of the event to promote the Licensing Objectives. The Panel did not consider that there were any conditions it could impost that would overcome its concerns.