'Like an invasion' - locals speak out over five-day festival

Cowle's Drove in Hockwold from Station Road.

Cowles Drove in Hockwold from Station Road. - Credit: Google

Locals have listed a host of concerns over a planned five-day festival they fear will be like an "invasion" for a quiet Norfolk village.

But the organisers of Paradise Gardens Hydro and Urban Lifestyle said it would be a "tightly-controlled event" - and "not an unlicensed rave".

West Norfolk Council's licensing sub committee met on Wednesday to discuss an application for a premises licence for the show on Cowles Drove in Hockwold, near Brandon.

Members of the sub committee, who viewed the site before the meeting, heard that the licence was for the sale of alcohol, the provision of live music, recorded music and dance, and the provision of late night refreshments from September 2 to 6. 

The committee will make a decision on the application in five working days.

Tim Cary, speaking on behalf of the applicant, said there was some misconception about the event and that it would primarily be a music festival with a range of trade stands and camping, and was "not an unlicensed rave".

He added: "It will be a tightly controlled event attended by about 60pc trade members, with 40pc general public.

"The event plan is at Glastonbury standards. This festival will have in the region of no more than 8,000 attendees, of whom a large percentage will be staff and crew."

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He said music hours would be restricted and "a raft of experienced contractors" would assist with what was proposed, which would include stewards, security, traffic management, medical services, and a local toilet hire company.

"The farmer is keen for the event to take place. It is an ideal site for what is proposed. You can have confidence in this operator, it is entertainment that this country needs after the experience of lockdown," Mr Cary added.

Lesley Randall, representing Hockwold cum Wilton Parish Council, raised concern over possible drug use at the event.

In response, the applicant said it would be "naive" to say nobody would be taking illicit drugs at any form of music event, but that they did not condone that behaviour and would be carrying out random searches with a security team on hand.

Ms Randall said: "Hockwold cum Wilton is a small village. To have an additional 8,000 would be like an invasion of the rural agricultural area during this event.

"Our biggest concern is access to the proposed site from the B112, which at that point is still national speed limit of 60mph. It's a busy road.

"There has recently been two accidents on this road, and I would hate for there to be another."

The parish council also said residents along the drove objected to noise and disturbance to the residents and "copious amount of wildlife, horses and livestock".

Residents on Cowles Drove raised concerns over the width of the road and what would happen in the event of an emergency.

An ex-owner and farmer of the 100-acre site also raised public safety and lack of street lighting as a concern with "dikes running all along the Drove".

She added: "Fire is the biggest public safety issue of all. We've recently had a fire down the Drove and we were shut off for 24 hours.

"The fire service had to go into the village to fill the engines due to the lack of water. The hydrant on the Drove did not give sufficient water."

She highlighted the BoomTown Festival fire in 2016 in Winchester after a fire broke out in the car park.

"I think this is going to be an issue", she added.

"Where alcohol is involved in large crowds there is the risk of anti-social behaviour. It's remote on the Drove so we're worried about trespassers on our properties.

"8,000-plus people descending on a small community is very worrying."

But the applicants said that their event management plan "deals with every conceivable issue which could possibly arrive", and that stewards and marshals would be on site to help control the event.

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