Blackheath, on a sunny day...

Greenwich Labour and Conservative councillors have teamed up to object to a Blackheath peace festival planned by the family of murdered teenager Jimmy Mizen.

The non-profit Good Hope Festival, which could take place on 2 and 3 August, will be a “beautiful and peaceful music and arts festival bringing people together to celebrate all that is good about Blackheath and its surroundings,” according to the Jimmy Mizen Foundation.

The foundation was set up by Margaret and Barry Mizen, whose 16-year-old son Jimmy died after being stabbed in a bakery in Lee in May 2008. The Mizen family have thrown themselves into community work since then, to promote peace among young people. They were made MBEs in the New Year Honours list.

Lewisham Council’s licensing committee will decide on Wednesday whether the festival will go ahead.

Documents submitted to Lewisham say the event will aim at “mainly a family audience. Adults will range from 25-45 mainly with children from 0-16”.

“There will be much for a family audience to enjoy as well as more high profile
bands and musicians for young adults, teens and adults. There will be no contentious artists booked to play the event.”

But the six councillors who represent Greenwich West and Blackheath Westcombe wards on Greenwich Council have written to Lewisham Council objecting to the event, which will take place on the south side of the borough boundary, between Goffers Road and Prince Charles Road.

This is despite the Blackheath Society, which went to court to try to stop the OnBlackheath festival in 2011, giving the Good Hope Festival its blessing. The two Lewisham Labour councillors for Blackheath, Kevin Bonavia and Amanda de Ryk, have also backed the festival, along with the Westcombe Society.

Greenwich councillors' objection email

“We have the strongest reservations about the use of the heath for major events involving amplified sound as a key element,” wrote Greenwich West councillor Maureen O’Mara, on behalf of Labour colleagues David Grant, Matt Pennycook and Alex Grant and Conservatives Geoff Brighty and Alex Wilson.

O’Mara’s objection comes despite her role as Greenwich’s cabinet member in charge of overseeing Run to the Beat, an event which used the heath and involved amplified sound as a key element.

Indeed, Run to the Beat – which has now moved to Wembley – is cited as an example of an event which has disturbed residents, despite Greenwich allowing it for six consecutive years.

The six councillors commissioned an assessment from Greenwich’s lead environmental health officer, who concluded that “Greenwich residents are likely to be affected by significant noise levels”.

Other objectors include Lewisham police and Terry Felgate, one of the organisers of On Blackheath, who both criticise the event’s management plan, as well as a handful of local residents, one of whom asks: “Why don’t the organisers give their names?”

On Blackheath, which will take place further west towards Wat Tyler Road, has already been given a licence by Lewisham for 13/14 September, after plans for events in 2011 and 2013 fell through.

Just as with On Blackheath back in 2011, one major sticking point is the Good Hope Festival’s application for a licence in perpetuity – which, according to Kevin Bonavia’s submission, is because the licensing costs would be too much for the event to bear for a one-off event.

Greenwich Conservatives have already expressed anxiety over events on the heath – and have criticised a lack of contact from Lewisham Council, one of the factors in Greenwich’s objections to On Blackheath in 2011.

But why two sets of Labour councillors should disagree is another matter – especially as the event is a non-profitmaking one, led by people with impeccable community credentials who wouldn’t want to put those at risk.

There may well be reasons to worry about the event’s organisation, and people who live near the heath are entitled to a quiet life. But to aim to block an event which is meant to benefit the community in both boroughs doesn’t reflect well on the council as a whole.

Full details about the licence application can be found on Lewisham Council’s website.

8.20pm update. See comments below for contributions from Matt Pennycook, Alex Grant and Kevin Bonavia. Here’s the email sent by Greenwich councillor Maureen O’Mara:


27 replies on “Greenwich councillors objecting to Blackheath ‘peace’ festival”

  1. Blackheath has always been a place for events, whether it be rebels marching on London, fairs – both traditional and funfairs, sporting events such the Marathon and Race for Life (and historically rugby and golf) and fireworks (.. oh sorry, Greenwich don’t support those either.) It would be difficult to imagine an organisation of whom it would be less easy to grumble about, some of the most decent people in south east London are behind it. Combine that with the fairly conservative Blackheath Society giving the event it’s thumbs up, and really just comes down to NIMBYism.

  2. I don’t object to the peace festival taking place as I believe it could be a very positive thing for the community but I do want to make sure it is properly controlled so that it doesn’t cause undue disturbance to local residents. I also have concerns (not aimed at JMF in particular) about the granting of licences in perpetuity. However, from what I’ve heard the JMF have been very open to tailoring plans in order to make sure the event causes as little disturbance as possible so hopefully – with some appropriate conditions – a compromise can be reached before the hearing on the 12th.

  3. Thanks for clarifying your views, Matt. The objection that was sent in your name was pretty unequivocal, though… it’s just a shame that the response doesn’t indicate your willingness to compromise.

  4. It was unequivocal in asking for a condition to be attached to any licence to safeguard against undue noise disturbance and for it to last for only one year rather than in perpetuity but it wasn’t an outright objection to the event itself. I very much hope the festival is allowed to proceed and that, with a bit of give-and-take on all sides, it gains the support of the whole community.

  5. I’m so angry that these Greenwich councillors have objected to this event I can’t type what I want as I would be banned from this website for good.

    Absolutely furious.

    I hope Lewisham grant the application and tell Greenwich to stick it with their fireworks misery.

  6. Very odd, but one of the objectors to the Good Hope Festival is one Terry Felgate, who seems to be one of the trio behind the rival Nimby/On Blackheath music festival. He is objecting on the grounds of noise, nuisance and disruption to local residents! Pots and black kettles spring to mind?! Apologies if it is not the same person.

  7. Greenwich Councillors’ attitude would be visibly different if JMF could get one of the royal borough’s friendly property developers to support the event in some way.

  8. Sorry but I just don’t understand this issue of noise disturbance for residents, Blackheath is huge. Can they really hear much or anything in their house/garden?

    Isn’t Blackheath common land, for the people? Its like living near choosing to live near the 02 but then complaining there’s too many concerts!

    We have relatively short summers so is disturbance from one or two family daytime festivals proportionate to objections and bans? Do the residents really object to this festival?

  9. I think 853 has got a bit carried away here. You only quoted one part of the letter sent to Lewisham by Greenwich cllrs – as Matt Pennycook rightly says, the full text makes it clear that we are not opposing the event outright or being killjoys or NIMBYs. We are just seeking reassurances on noise levels, and asking Lewisham Council to take it one year at a time rather than granting a license in perpetuity. Since we wrote, I know the Jimmy Mizen Foundation have had a useful meeting with the Blackheath Joint Working Party (sadly I could not make the meeting) and offered reassurance on a number of points.

    If local community groups are happy then so am I. I value the work of the Jimmy Mizen Foundation and support the proposed event, just as long as there are sensible limits on noise. One of the problems here is that the licensing system is adversarial, so that comments on license applications are termed as “representations” or “objections”, which can sound a bit harsh.

    Alex Grant (Labour cllr for Blackheath Westcombe ward)

  10. The councillors’ objections are on page 11 of this PDF for those who want to see them. “Strongest reservations” would suggest that it’s not this website that has got carried away.

    Tommy Mizen has responded in the original News Shopper story:

  11. It seems like some reassurances and a compromise could easily be reached – it sounds like JMF are happy to negotiate and be considerate so I doubt there’ll be many problems with it.

    As for the OnBlackheath event, that is likely to be way more disruptive and noisy so it’s ironic that one of the JMF critics is an OnBlackheath organizer. Regarding what some commenters say above, I don’t live nearby but it should be remembered that noise still needs to be considered, as it travels across the open spaces of the Heath with nothing to block it, and there’s a big difference between events with amplified music and other events which won’t have such a wide impact. Yes it’s common land, but it’s not a concert venue like the purpose-built O2 so there surely still have to be some limits, as with anything else and probably more so, with sites that people have to share and when certain actions might impact others. Plus I suspect many residents will have lived there long before these new events started to be planned. That’s what I feel about the OnBlackheath thing…

    That said, this JMF festival sounds fine to me, the organisers are considerate and willing to listen, unlike OnBlackheath, it’s for a good cause, so good luck to them!

  12. It is interesting to see that the police have objected to the GHF, especially as they didn’t object to the OnBlackheath event. From what I have read both events could attract a considerably different type of audience which is perhaps why the police are more concerned with the GHF. In principle I am in favour of this sort of event (charitable or commercial) on Blackheath provided they are run professionally and give due consideration to the local community. Perhaps a sensible idea would be to let the event that already has a license, a very well scrutinised one by all accounts, take place this year and should it run successfully then look at adding the GHF event for 2015.

  13. Shivamee – comparing the Heath to the o2 is risible. Moreover when the OnBlackheath festival was first discussed its supporters said that people shouldnt complain as it was only one event. Well now we will end up with 2 weekends taken up with live music this year maybe next year it will be 4? As a resident I have zero interest in being forced to listen to music for a whole weekend much less buy tickets for a private event on public land to give me a better appreciation of Blackheath.

  14. I’m lucky enough to live right on the Heath with nothing that will block any noise between my property and the event. I’m fairly neutral about this though. On one hand it may be great, on the other it may be terrible. But it’s for a good cause, aimed at families so we should at least be prepared to give it a go for a year. Perpetual licenses can be revoked without any major issues I believe.

    Now On Blackheath on the other hand…….

  15. As I’ve said in my written submission to the Licensing Committee, I am supporting the Good Hope Festival application because I have been really impressed with the approach of the Jimmy Mizen Foundation when discussing their plans with them and their willingness to adapt them so as to minimise disturbance to the surrounding area.

    From my discussions with my councillor colleagues in Greenwich, I understand they also appreciate the efforts that JMF have made. As Alex Grant explained, responses to licence applications can appear adversarial – ie are you for or against, though many in fact are usually seeking conditions, not outright refusal.

    Although not aimed at JMF specifically, there is a concern in granting licences in perpetuity, especially for events that haven’t happened before, as you haven’t got the evidence to indicate whether they are likely to be a success in future years. Unfortunately, the licence fees regime (fixed in law) means a substantial increase in costs to the applicant should it apply for a one-event licence, as there is a fee for each application and a separate fee for the enforcement of each event. So, the comfort of a one-event licence needs to be weighed against the cost to a local charity. I hope this can be resolved at the hearing.

    On a more general point on large events on the Heath, they not only need a licence under the Licensing Act, they also need the approval of the relevant Council. This is considered on an event-by-event basis. Lewisham Council has already approved the Good Hope Festival and OnBlackheath for 2014 but they will each have to apply again if they want to hold an event next year. So, if either or both events happen this year, there will then be evidence for Lewisham Council to consider whether to give approval next year (and for the Licensing Committee to review the licences).

  16. Mr Eeee

    According to Neil Rhind who knows a thing or two about Blackheath , the majority of Blackheath is owned by the queen , the rest is owned by the Earl of Dartmouth

  17. I asked the Earl of Dartmouth about it on Friday and he said he had no major objections. Lord Emsworth, of course, loves a day out as long as the Empress of Blandings is well looked after.

  18. Thank you Peter

    The point I am trying to make is that because we have ‘common land’ which is managed by a government dept or quango . it doesn’t mean that its not privately owned

  19. @Dave

    Are we discussing who owns the land or whether it is designated common land? The same link I gave would have told you that it is partly owned by the crown (which is not the same as being owned by the Queen btw). The owner is noted as:

    Part owned by the Crown Estate Commissioners, part by one privateowner, and part by the Charity of Sir J. Morden, Morden College.

    I think the problem here is that you don’t actually understand what common land is. This may help: “Common land is owned by someone, but other people can use it in specific ways.”

  20. Mr Eeee

    I think we are in agreement , the point I tried to make was that people think that because we have common land , with rights to roam etc , people think it is owned by us all

  21. Is the Greenwich Council that is so sensitive to noise and disruption for residents the same Greenwich Council that has granted a license to Run to the Beat (clue in the name) for some years? Funny when there isn’t a big corporation behind a scheme it gets the knock back. Talking of which congratulations to Charlton Central Residents who were the only group to speak out against it at license hearings. They must be really pleased that Wembley is getting the nuisance although only a 10K not a half marathon. Did IMG ever pay up its charitable donation and if it did how was the money spent on sporting legacy? Come on Darryl, you have your ear to the ground. Whatever happened to RTTB cash?

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