Our Objection and Response
We have now presented a formal objection to the Wireless Festival 2016 Application. Last year’s Wireless Festival was held over two summer weekends and attracted crowds of 50,000 per day. There were serious safety issues when hundreds of gatecrashers stormed the barriers, residents complained of excessive noise, disruption, and antisocial behaviour in streets surrounding the Park.
The event also caused severe damage to the fabric of Finsbury Park, destroying the grass areas where Wireless was held, with thousands of pairs of feet turning them into dusty scrubland which stayed ruined for months.
This year in addition to our formal objection, we have sent Haringey Council a letter from London solicitor Susan Ring, who specialises in environmental and public law, on behalf of the Friends of Finsbury Park, to inform them that they are acting unlawfully as the size of the concerts contravenes an Act of Parliament set up to protect London parks.
Susan says, “The Victorians passed legislation to form Finsbury Park for the health and enjoyment of the inhabitants of North London, so it is ironic that in what might be thought of as a more civilised age, the Council is now seeking unlawfully to close large sections of the Park off in the high summer at just the time when green space deprived Londoners would want to use the Park. This creeping privatisation and annexing of Finsbury Park by the Council is not appropriate: the Council should look at other ways of raising money.”
The Wireless Festival 2016 Application Process
Haringey Council have been very secretive during the whole application process. The Friends were told in January that the council was working with Wireless Festival organisers on an event application. Then Wireless started to promote the summer 2016 dates in Finsbury Park a week before we received the application.
We only had 10 days to respond to the application, but information vital for us to make an informed decision was withheld. There was no Risk Assessment, Noise Management Plan, Green and Sustainable Policy, Event Management Plan or Area Map. When we contacted the Council they refused to provide the information telling us it was ‘commercially sensitive’ and that we’d need to to submit a Freedom of Information Request.
It also seemed that in an attempt to appease residents and Park users, the organisers, Festival Republic (Live Nation) ‘dressed-up’ the application with a so-called community/charity event the weekend before. When asked, the Council were unable to tell us who the charity was and what type of event it was going to be.
The council also stated that the event application was only open for Stakeholders to comment on, and not for the public, thus denying the voice of residents and Park users whose opinions and past experiences matter the most. In effect the whole consultation process would take place behind closed doors, where the council could keep it under their control.
The Cabinet Member for Parks and the Environment, Cllr Stuart McNamara will make the final decision on whether to grant a Land Use Agreement for Wireless Festival this year. Without this, the event cannot be held. In our last Stakeholder meeting during Wireless 2015, Cllr McNamara ended the meeting within a few minutes, refusing to talk to us about anything Wireless related. We were due to have another Stakeholder meeting before the Ceremony and United Festivals at the end of summer last year, but had no word from Cllr McNamara and the meeting didn’t materialise. Since then we have had no further communication with Cllr McNamara and the Stakeholder meetings have been stopped.
We contacted Council Leader Claire Kober over a month ago, requesting an urgent meeting with her regarding this matter. We have yet to receive a reply.
In light of this, we are deeply concerned as to whether an informed decision can be made to allow such a large and disruptive event, especially considering the security problems of last year.
Support From Catherine West MP
In support of our response to the Wireless Festival application, Catherine West MP has recently contacted Nick Walkley, Chief Executive of Haringey Council requesting an urgent extension of the consultation window and to widen participation to local residents who bear the brunt of the disruption. She has also sent a letter to all of her constituents expressing her concerns.
Wireless Festival And The Alternatives
Wireless Festival is huge. It’s impossible to comprehend the vast scale of these events and the impact they have on the Park. Last year’s Wireless Festival covered one third of the size of the Park, surrounded by an oppressive 8ft high metal barrier to keep Park users out, in some areas stretching as far as the eye could see.
Many local residents do not have gardens so the Park serves as a vital outdoor amenity. Events such as Wireless take weeks to set up and take down, during which time about a third of the Park is out of bounds to the public surrounded by high, sheet metal barriers.
As a group we understand that due to government cuts, council budgets have been slashed so there is less money to spend. Haringey Council Leader Claire Kober has raised the question of privatisation. We’d like Haringey Council to work with us to find ways to cover running costs, and get involved with more creative fund-raising ideas for Finsbury Park which don’t cause such huge disruption and damage, and weeks of stress for local residents and Park users. We want to work with Haringey to find alternative, more imaginative, streams of income which are more appropriate in type and scale for our wonderful Park, and inclusive of the local community.
Haringey Council have not published the income figures from Wireless Festival, organised by Festival Republic, and simply insist that it has to happen. But by their own figures all Finsbury Park events last year raised £755,000 and only £255,000 of that was used for the maintenance and running costs of the Park. The income raised from other events, such as the circus and funfairs would cover a large part, if not all, of what is actually required to run the Park.
Having taken legal advice it is our understanding that Haringey Council does not have the power to stage such large events.
Read our formal response here
Read Catherine West MP’s letter here