Securing event licences depends on positive partnerships

Out-Law Analysis | 17 Jun 2019 | 8:55 am | 3 min. read

Event organisers that develop positive partnerships with local agencies and community groups are more likely to identify issues that might hinder the successful staging of their event in advance and secure a licence allowing them to operate.

Meeting the licensing requirements involves considering a myriad of issues, liaising with a broad range of authorities and, often, addressing concerns raised by community groups.

The organisers of the Porthilly Spirit festival in Cornwall recently had to cancel their planned  event for 2019, scheduled for the end of May bank holiday weekend, after failing to address local concerns to the satisfaction of the local licensing body.

Issues such as concerns over crime and disorder and traffic congestion are among the common concerns that local residents will highlight...

Positive partnerships in action for MiNT Festival

Typically, event organisers must satisfy a range of conditions to win approval from the local licensing body for their event to go ahead. This was no different in the case of electronic music event MiNT Festival.

An event of this size requires substantial planning, and from a licensing perspective it was important for work to begin at least six months in advance. With 15,000 music lovers expected, noise, safety and transport issues all to consider, early liaison between the organisers and all stakeholders was vital.

Permission for the event was needed from the local authority and a deadline of 28 days prior to the festival was set for obtaining sign-off.

A safety advisory group (SAG) played a central role in bringing together representatives of the three emergency services, the highways agency, environmental health the licensing authority and the event organiser.

The SAG helped organisers listen to and meet issues raised by the various agencies, such as those flagged by the environmental health officer in relation to noise, the police in relation to security and the highways officer in relation to the transport plan for the event.

Attention to detail is vital, so organisers made a point of arranging numerous visits to local parish councils to be alive to their concerns.

Issues such as concerns over crime and disorder and traffic congestion are among the common concerns that local residents will highlight, and it will generally be a condition of an event organiser's licence that they have plans in place to address these issues. The MiNT Festival organisers recognised that to make a success of the event and win local support for it, they needed to bring local residents of nearby villages with them on the journey of the festival's planning and to respond quickly to the issues they raised.

Once the event has been run, event organisers should carry out a review of the event and link in with relevant partners to take on-board what issues arose and learn any lessons for future.

If things go wrong

Building positive partnerships and forging strong relationships in the local community will help event organisers to improve the planning of their event and meet any conditions imposed on them staging their event by licensing bodies.

In the worst case scenario, the licensing authorities may prevent events going ahead if legitimate concerns raised by event partners and community groups are not addressed. This has the potential to expose organisers to reputational risk as well as the administrative and costly headache of cancellation, such as communicating the message to ticket holders and facilitating refunds.

Recently, the organisers of the Porthilly Spirit festival were forced to cancel their planned 2019 event after Cornwall Council’s Licencing Committee refused their application for a licence.

According to reports by the BBC and Cornwall Live, concerns relating to the traffic management plan for the three-day music, food and wellbeing event were behind the licensing authority's decision. The council had received 64 objections to the planned event, according to the reports.

In a statement, Will Herrmann, founder of the festival, said the organisers had explored "all possible options to see if there was any way we can make the event happen" in light of the licensing body's decision, but said their "only option" in the end was to cancel. He said ticket holders would be refunded "the full amount they paid".

"While our plans for the festival had the full support of all the local statutory authorities, we will work hard now to address the concerns of the local community in preparation for a new licence application for the event in 2020," Herrmann said.

Christopher Rees-Gay is an expert in licensing law at Pinsent Masons. Pinsent Masons’ licensing team serves all 3 UK jurisdictions and is pleased to support the Institute of Licensing’s National Licensing Week (June 17-21 2019): ‘Raising awareness of licensing and its impact on everyday lives’.