On Monday, Shropshire Council‘s Licencing Sub-Committee met for two hours in public to discuss an application for Ludlow Rugby Club on Linney to hold events such as the Spring Food Festival. The public meeting was attended by around 16 residents, with six more listening online. The rugby club was present with its legal representative from Lanyon Bowlder. Also in attendance was the chairman of the food festivals. The police did not attend. After the public hearing, the committee comprised of Councillors Roy Aldcroft, Peter Broomhall and Edward Towers debated their conclusions in private. The decision notice was issued this morning.

I was impressed by the contributions by residents which were well argued. However, none of the points they raised during the meeting were taken on board by the committee. The committee decided instead decided to issue a licence based on common ground agreed during discussions between Shropshire Council and the rugby club a few weeks ago. Many residents will wonder what the point was of them doing so much work and of making the journey to Shirehall.

The application by Ludlow Rugby Club was triggered by the need to find a new home for Ludlow Spring Festival, which can no longer afford the charges levied by Ludlow Castle for this event. The September Food Festival, which has a higher footfall, will still be held in the castle.

The conditions on the licence are, in summary:

  • The number of large events of over 500 persons (not involving rugby) will be limited to three a year.
  • Two large events will be allowed for three days (finish time 21:00) and one for two days (finish 23:00).
  • Outside areas must be cleared of patrons by 23:00.
  • These events must be 21 days apart.
  • Large events must be assessed in liaison with Shropshire Council’s Safety Advisory Group.
  • Eight smaller outdoors events will be allowed each year.
  • Licenced hours for events and alcoholic drinks are 08:00 to 23:00 outdoors.
  • There are conditions about security and management of events.

The final licence has yet to be issued and I hope it includes a ban on fireworks at any time.

During the hearing, the chair of the food festivals made a sustained attack on rumours that the September food festival will be held at the rugby club. He directed his attack at the residents. He should have directed his comments at Karena Harris of Lanyon Bowlder who was sitting next to him. In January, she wrote to objectors outlining the reasons for the rugby club making the application, which included: “Other events such as Ludlow Food and drinks festival, craft fairs, vintage car rallies etc would also be able to take place at the club.” It is wrong to castigate residents for reacting to a letter they received from the applicant’s lawyer.

It was asserted by Lanyon Bowlder that an 8am licence was needed to allow traders to purchase from each other before the Spring Festival opens at 9am. The earliest it opens is 10am.

This application has been on the wrong foot from the outset. The licence application was submitted without prior engagement with residents and local councillors. Initially it was a “Full Monty” application, 16 hours a day, 365 days a week, even though the rugby club had no intention (at the moment at least) of using it to the full. That understandingly stirred up considerable anger. Lanyon Bowlder said it thought many residents had objected on the basis of the site notice having not read the full application. That misunderstood the networking within Ludlow communities and their ability to obtain and share information at speed.

After the application, the usual consultations and discussions took place between Shropshire Council’s team for licencing, public protection and trading standards, the police and the applicant. Agreement was reached on a restrictions and conditions to the licence, summarised above. But the meeting on Monday added nothing to the process other than ticking a box required by legislation.

I felt throughout that this application could have been made from Rotterdam, anywhere but here. It has proved to be an object lesson on how not to approach a sensitive application. It has done unnecessary and avoidable damage to the reputation of the food festivals and the rugby club. I am sure they will recover from that.

We now need to monitor the impact of the rugby club hosting events, starting with the Spring Festival. I doubt the worst fears of some residents of some residents about anti-social behaviour and danger to children will be realised. But the conflict between pedestrians and traffic on the Linney and on the access track to the rugby club remains a concern. As does noise. At the meeting, it was said by a supporter that the rugby club is “not in amphitheatre”. It doesn’t feel like that when you live at the Cliffe.

Ludlow Rugby Club statement.

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