London council gives planning permission to nearly quadruple permitted events on flagship open space

A south London council has given planning permission for 110 days of events to be held on open space in what it called "an unprecedented" move which would make the council a pioneer.

The South West Four festival. Image: Graham McLellan/Flickr
The South West Four festival. Image: Graham McLellan/Flickr

Planning committee councillors gave the green light to temporary use of 35-hectares of Clapham Common for events which total 110 days out of the year, some of which have already taken place. The rest of the common is owned by Wandsworth Council.

The Town and Country Planning Act allows the temporary use of land for up to 28 days in total in any calendar year, without extra planning permission being sought.

In its briefing document, the council’s planning officers admitted the London borough was already exceeding that, with 54 events a year currently taking place, including large events such as the SW4 festival, Let’s Rock and Moonwalk, and a wide range of small and medium events such as food festivals, fun runs and sports events.

The document said that the move to bring a full calendar year of events on public open space under planning control would allow better implementation of the council’s Events Strategy 2016-2020 and was " unprecedented, and Lambeth Council is a forerunner in this regard".

It said planning permission would "offer reassurance to event organisers, local residents and communities that any events authorised by Lambeth Council is lawful and subject to appropriate and proportionate planning controls".

The document went on to say that officers considered that there would be "no harm to the openness of the Metropolitan Open Land. The associated impacts in respect of transport, residential amenity impacts, biodiversity and heritage matters have been fully considered."

However Open Spaces Society general secretary Kate Ashbrook has described Lambeth’s action as "driving a coach and horses through legislation designed to protect open spaces".

The society says the "intensified" use of Clapham Common for events has "caused serious damage to the ground and close off huge parts of the common to public access, as well as causing a torrent of complaints about noise".

The committee added a number of conditions to its approval, including the requirement for tracks to be laid for vehicles on the common for big events.

But the society said that "major events have badly degraded the ground," saying one SW4 festival turned a large area of the common into "a quagmire, with deep ruts in the ground". The society does not believe the ground ever properly recovers.

Ashbrook said: "The society is alarmed that this application has been approved. The council has apparently ignored the legislation designed to protect open spaces.

"The council seems to be inviting other local authorities to follow its example, which is deeply worrying." 

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