Festival approved - but noise must be reduced

July 01 2021
Festival approved - but noise must be reduced

The “loudest ever” open-air music festival in Bristol has been approved – but the volume must be turned down a bit after scores of neighbours objected.

By Adam Postans, LDRS reporter for South Bristol Voice

And it will be held as a one-off trial only on the weekend of July 24-25 at Greville Smyth Park instead of annually over the next three years after applicants Slammin Events scaled back the drum-and-bass event in a bid to placate residents.

Sequences Festival’s organisers had wanted noise levels up to 75 decibels outside the nearest homes, arguing it was the same as that permitted for concerts at nearby Ashton Gate Stadium.

But Bristol City Council environmental health officers said 65 decibels would be more appropriate for the event, which has an 8,000 daily capacity, because of the technical difference that the park was classed as an “open site”.

Sixty-five householders near the Southville park objected, along with the council’s pollution control team, although a police objection was withdrawn after they agreed conditions.

Neighbour Matthew Gibbs and founder of rateBS3, a local non-profit research organisation, presented a survey [see summary of results, pg. 5] of 253 residents to the licensing sub-committee at City Hall on June 10.

The research found about three-quarters were opposed to the event and 87 per cent believed the noise would have a negative impact.

Quoting residents’ comments in the report, Mr Gibbs said they included concerns the festival would disturb children’s sleep, potentially damage the grass and could put neighbours at risk because of access problems for emergency vehicles in surrounding streets.

Following the licensing committee meeting, Mr Gibbs spoke to South Bristol Voice.

He said: "I noted that none of our local councillors were invited to attend, let alone be allowed to give their views, or sit on the panel. 

"I also noticed that nobody from Friends of Greville Smyth Park attended, likely due to it being on a workday."

Airing the views of local residents, Mr Gibbs questioned whether it is even responsible for the event to go ahead now, following the minimum four week extension of Covid restrictions until July 19.

Slammin Events solicitor Matthew Phipps said the fact there was no representation from the council’s traffic management officers meant the experts did not deem this to be an issue.

He said the event was being run by “proper operators and organisers” who had vast experience and expertise.

Mr Phipps said they had agreed to 112 conditions covering everything from traffic management to security.

He said the fact Ashton Gate Stadium was allowed to play live music up to 75 decibels at the nearest homes meant that level did not cause a noise nuisance.

“Sixty-five decibels fundamentally undermines the event – the audience would not enjoy themselves,” the solicitor said.

Mr Phipps said the vast majority of festival-goers would either walk or use public transport and that parking arrangements away from the residential area were in place for the small number who would drive.

He said noise levels would be closely monitored during the event but that a mechanical noise limiter was not appropriate because the specified volume related to just outside the nearest homes, not at the source on stage.

City council senior environmental health officer Dylan Davies said: “The problem is residents are relatively close to the event area so it is a very restricted site. Music levels will be relatively high.”

Granting the licence with revised conditions, sub-committee chairman Cllr Paul Goggin said the decision was a compromise over noise levels.

He said the average volume over a 15-minute period within one metre of any home must not exceed 68 decibels up to 4.30pm, 70db from 4.30pm to 7.30pm and 72db after 7.30pm.

The licence allows the sale of alcohol from midday to 10.10pm on Saturday and until 9.40pm on Sunday, with music and dance performance until 10.30pm on Saturday and 10pm on Sunday.

The line-up includes globally renowned DJs including Chase & Status, Gorgon City and Sonny Fodera.

Summary of results from rateBS3's survey about the festival:

• The majority of residents are against the event happening in Greville Smyth Park (59%)

• Net sentiment against (74%) is stronger among those who live within 0.5 miles of the park (82%)

• A majority recognise the positive impact the event may have on the local economy (61%)

• There is overwhelming concern about how the festival will impact residents' lives, including criminal damage, ASB, substance abuse, noise pollution, parking and road safety

• There is concern that the park will not recover. Alternative venue suggestions were Ashton Court and Ashton Gate