Locals launch campaign to fund legal challenge to Field Day
Community group Brockwell Tranquillity is launching a fundraising campaign for a legal challenge to Lambeth Council’s decision to allow the Field Day music festival to take over Brockwell Park in early June.
The community aim to prove Lambeth has failed to meet a number of statutory duties, and has ignored recent rulings around the extent to which London’s parks can be treated as a revenue stream by local authorities. Waxarch Ltd, the corporation behind Field Day, has been given permission to stage a festival that will bring crowds three-times the size of Wembley Arena to Brockwell Park. With 39,999 attendees each day, the festival’s daily capacity is almost the same as the total population of the three wards that boarder the Park.
The go-ahead from Lambeth came after months of controversy, with much criticism around the way the council has consulted with locals. At a public meeting hosted by Herne Hill Forum MP Helen Hayes went as far as to call out her council colleagues’ handling of the situation: “The process has not been up to scratch. We have not had details about managing the park. This is leading to very strong feelings.” Locals were only informed of Lambeth's plans for the park after a PR cock-up in which Field Day put leaflets through locals' letterboxes in November to say they had already been given the go-ahead. Lambeth Council then had to scramble to convince locals that Field Day had been made no such promises and would not be made any promises until consultation had taken place.
Over the next couple of months Lambeth, local councillors and community groups recieved huge numbers of objections to the plans. In addition, 3000 locals signed a petition to say that they believe Brockwell is simply too small, and the area too residential and densely populated to accomodate such large events. But in the end the petition and objections have been dismissed by Lambeth on the grounds that Field Day agreed to reduce their capacity from 40,000 to 37,500. Quite how this squares with Field Day's license application still being for 39,999 isn't clear.
Failures in the consultation process play a large part in why locals have decided to turn to the law. Times are tough for councils and taking their cash-strapped local authority to court is not an idea most residents relish. But Lambeth's handling of the consultation has led to significant anger, with many feeling the interests of big-business have been put before the concerns of local people, the local economoy and the local environment.
A further concern has been the lack of due diligence. No environmental impact or noise assessments have been done, despite being recommended by Lambeth’s own advisors and promised by Lambeth officers at the Herne Hill Forum meeting.
The initial fundraising campaign is to cover the costs of a case review conducted by a lawyer and barrister experienced in local government decsion making and environmental cases. With such a messy and confused consultation there are many forms a legal challenge could take. The initial case review will advise on which route offfers the best chance of success.
A starting target of £2800 has been set; which would be enough to get a basic legal report. However, a stretch-target of £4000 would allow for a far more detailed and technical look at issues such as the environmental impact. Given that the crowdfunding page went live at 8am on the morning of 8th of March and by 5pm that same day it had hit £2040 - 70% of the target - the organisers are confident that locals are willing to dig deep to protect this much loved local green space.