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GREEN SPACES: Parks turned into ‘outdoor nightclubs’

GREEN SPACES: Parks turned into ‘outdoor nightclubs’

Stereophonics at This is Tomorrow at Exhibition Park, Newcastle, on May 27, 2019, Image: NCJ Media

Parks bosses in Newcastle have been urged to stop turning the city’s green spaces into “outdoor nightclubs”.

Councillors have complained about the number of rowdy music festivals and other major events causing disturbance for neighbours, like the recent This is Tomorrow festival in Exhibition Park and Noughty 90s in Leazes Park.

Jesmond councillor Felicity Mendelson said that residents felt like they had “no input” into the organisation of This is Tomorrow and felt “powerless”.

She told Newcastle City Council’s overview and scrutiny committee on Thursday that big events on the Town Moor like Pride and the Newcastle Mela have “always been well supported and residents accept them”, but that newer festivals organised since the local authority transferred control of its parks to independent charity Urban Green have caused problems.

Around 17,000 people packed out Exhibition Park for three days straight in September to see the likes of Sam Fender and Gerry Cinnamon, but there were reports that noise could be heard from as far away as Hebburn.

Blakelaw representative Marion Williams added that parks had turned into “outdoor nightclubs” that “rattle” windows in nearby homes and called for “more gentile” alternatives, such as open air theatre, that would still bring in cash without becoming a serious nuisance.

The Labour councillor said: “It is essential that Urban Green washes its face and finds a way to keep our parks looking good, but it is important that they take residents in the city with them rather than have them turn against it. I fear that the balance is not quite there yet.

“I know local groups have found it very difficult. You get a notice through your door [about an event] after the works have already started in the park.

“The thing I don’t see is more appropriate, gentile events. They all seem to be incredibly crowded and with drink, alcohol, and drugs judging by what gets left behind.

“Parks can make money out of more gentile events, theatre in the park, orchestra, ballet. I would encourage dialogue with Urban Green to say there are events which are hugely popular, more inclusive, and a little less aggressive.”

Liberal Democrat Wendy Taylor suggested the return of an “extremely popular” dog show in Paddy Freeman’s Park as another alternative.

Coun Irim Ali, the council’s cabinet member for community services and public engagement, said that talking to communities was “at the heart of what Urban Green is about” and it will need to be addressed if there is a problem because “there are a lot more events planned in the next five years”.

Ed Foster, the council’s head of public safety and regulation, added that Urban Green is in the process of trying to secure a new licence for Exhibition Park, which proposes holding a maximum of 20 events a year with crowds of more than 500.

He said: “We are looking very closely at that and trying to make sure we get the balance right for local residents. At the moment we apply national guidance and apply that, but if you are going to host events in the city it is inevitable that there will be some noise complaints.

“We cannot make it absolutely quiet, but we can impose proper controls to make sure it is monitored and that they stay within the limits.”

A spokesperson from Urban Green Newcastle said the charity was “established to breathe life into Newcastle’s green spaces in a variety of ways, including hosting a range of events from small community gatherings to larger music events”.

The charity added: “We are in the process of developing a full Events Strategy in which we want to find the right balance between a number of factors, including the city’s cultural ambitions, our commercial strategy, wildlife conservation, parks protection and residential impact.

“Large events are also run and hosted by the Freemen, NewcastleGateshead Initiative, NE1, Newcastle City Council and others, so we are currently discussing our Event Strategy with the City Council. As noted by a number of councillors these ongoing discussions are important to ensure there is balance in the number of events and their cumulative impact across the year.

“This year’s event calendar featured some events inherited from Newcastle City Council, including This Is Tomorrow, which had its main stage on the Town Moor under the management of the City Council and the Freemen. For all event bookings we always follow the correct process in taking major events to Newcastle City Council’s Safety Advisory Group, and consulting with the appropriate organisations to ensure that issues such as noise levels are considered and approved as required.”

 

Words: Daniel Holland, Local Democracy Reporter


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