Organisers of the planned OnBlackheath pop festival this summer said on Monday (May 16th) that they will almost certainly now have to abandon it after Bromley Magistrates ordered yet another adjournment in hearing Blackheath Society’s appeal against the event.
“We are desperately disappointed,” NIMBY Events Ltd. director Tom Wates said after the Magistrates adjourned the hearing of the Society’s appeal, this time until 29 June.
Monday was the 5th day of the hearings. They began on the 3rd of March.
But Mr. Wates said on Monday that if the Magistrates did finally throw out the Society’s appeal, NIMBY would be back again with a new bid to stage the open-air two-day festival on the Heath in September 2012.
Among the class of stars NIMBY had been looking to feature at the festival this Sept. 10 and 11 year were Adele and Mumford & Sons. NIMBY had been planning on attracting audiences of 25,000 on each of the planned festival’s two days, charging £45 per ticket per day.
Mr. Wates and his wife own the Noa Noa dress shop in Blackheath Village.
Earlier on Monday, Peter Gadsdon, head of Lewisham Council’s Strategy and Performance department and chairman of the Council’s Safety Advisory Group, had told the two Magistrates hearing the appeal: “Mr. Wates indicated that the event would not go ahead unless there was a decision today.”
Fellow NIMBY director Alex Wicks said that as a result of the Society’s legal bid to block the festival the three parties involved – NIMBY, the Society and Lewisham Council – had together been involved in spending “a ridiculous amount of money, far too much” on legal fees. Each of the three is represented in court by a barrister.
Mr. Wicks said a guesstimate for the total for the three would be £200,000. “It’s a significant amount of money which could have been put to better use than this”.
He said NIMBY has financial backing from a venture capital group. Blackheath Society, meanwhile, has appealed to its
members to dig into their pockets to help fund its legal costs. As a Council, Lewisham’s legal costs are met by local council tax payers.
The presiding Magistrate, Mr. Roger Mills, told the court on Monday: “This appeal was originally listed for two days” (March 3rd and 4th). “But here we are half way through Day 5 and Day 6 is looming.”
But he said that because of “the enormous amount of evidence” from the hearings that the two Magistrates would have to plough through there could be no final decision in the case until some unspecified time after June 29th.
At an earlier hearing, Mr. Wates had indicated continuing uncertainty over the outcome of the Society’s appeal was causing NIMBY major headaches, including booking artists. He said neither artists nor some of the contractors NIMBY wanted to use would enter into discussions until they knew for certain that the festival was going ahead.
Recognised as one of the most powerful local groups of its kind in the country, Blackheath Society bills itself as the “Guardians of the Heath.” But local blogs show overwhelming support for OnBlackheath especially among younger people.
The Society’s appeal is against a ruling by Lewisham Council’s licensing sub-committee that gave the go-ahead for NIMBY to stage the festival annually this year and in perpetuity, with sale of alcohol.
Many thanks to Michelle for sending this in. I’ve always been in two minds about the festival to be honest – never quite decided which side of the fence to land… But it is clear that many people commenting here and on other local blogs (such as the excellent 853blog), feel strongly that the Society may have mis-judged the local mood this time.