From Michele O’Brien at the Blackheath Bugle, and as mentioned here a couple of weeks back, news that the planned On Blackheath festival is set to be abandoned for this year as a consequence of the lengthy court battle over Lewisham granting it a licence.

However, the organisers have said they’ll reapply for a new licence for next year if the court rules against them – and will simply go ahead with the event next year if the court rules in their favour and against the Blackheath Society, which is taking the action against Lewisham Council.

I dealt at length with Lewisham’s failings in dealing with the original application earlier this month, and it’s telling that the council is reviewing its policy on events in its parks. I expect any future application to hold an event on Blackheath will get more publicity than a single note tied to a single lamp post.

The consequence of this flawed process has been a legal battle which is estimated to be costing all parties involved – the organisers, Lewisham Council and the Blackheath Society – around £200,000.

In a month that will see the closure of Blackheath Village Library, it’s worth noting that £200,000 would have kept that building running (excluding staffing costs) for a further 20 months. The same sum would have kept New Cross Library running for seven years*.

While Lewisham could certainly have done things differently, I wonder if the self-styled “guardians of the heath” (“the public voice of Blackheath“, no less) are starting to regret taking out such a costly, and possibly ruinous legal action?

(* Figures from p506 of this document presented to Lewisham Council’s cabinet.)

4 replies on “Counting the cost: On Blackheath festival off for 2011”

  1. I find the whole thing rather perplexing. From what we are told, there was no money in it for Lewisham Borough anyway, and yet it’s costing this much not to have it.

    It’s an utter shambles, which could have been sorted with proper consultation from the outset. When Zippo’s came the other week I could hear them clearly from inside surrounding buildings, so it’s not all about the noise.

    I think the Blackheath Society just set their face against it at all costs, and I think the reason was that they felt let down by Lewisham in the way they’d handled licensing with NIMBY, in a way which gave the impression they were trying to sneak something in without anyone noticing

  2. The money was for Glendale, the company which runs Lewisham’s parks – there’s a shortfall in its contract which it makes up by charging for events.

    Think your last paragraph sums it up – the licensing process was by the book, but not adequate for a big event (and one on a boundary with a borough which says it wasn’t consulted).

  3. Can’t agree with you view on the Blackheath Society Tom. Whilst your absolutely right that the consultation process was pretty shoddy, I don’t believe for one second that this was BS’s problem. It seems quite clear to me from everything they’ve said on the subject that no amount of consultation, representation and negotiation would have been sufficient. They seem to believe that their members and those residents who live directly on the heath are it’s sole guardians and have a right of veto over any use other than as a green open space that looks nice out of their living room windows.

  4. Blissett…you might be right, but I do think that it would have been much better received by everyone if they’d have spent more time last year telling people that it was going to happen, and gone to meet the Blackheath Society earlier on about it.

    At the very least, if they’d gone further than just the statutory notices around the perimeter, people would have known about it, it would have kicked the arguments off earlier, and it could have all been hashed out at the licensing stage rather than in the courts afterwards, which would have been much cheaper for everyone.

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