After two years of relative peace and tranquilly for the village residents and wildlife in the western downland area of the South Downs National Park area because of Covid this major festival event is due to kick off again this year in August. Boomtown's event is on 10th to the 14th August 2022. The report below provides provide some historical information about the planning and licencing of this event.
A report by a volunteer: D.A. Pain - a resident who live near the festival site at Cheriton
History prior to designation of the South Downs National Park.
A number of musical events were held on Matterley Farm prior to SDNP coming into existence. No specific planning permission was ever sought or granted as the land owner’s Permitted Development Rights (PDR) for up to 28 days of non-agricultural use of agricultural land in a year was sufficient.
The South Downs Way runs through the site which includes the Cheesefoot Head Viewpoint and there is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) nearby.
History since designation.
The first music event called ‘Boomtown Fair’ was held in 2011 and its proposed attendance was 7,500 although a Premises Licence granted to the land owner by the local Licensing Authority, Winchester City Council (WCC), allowed up to 29,999 persons to attend each event.
In 2014 WCC granted a new Premises Licence allowing 38,000 attendees in 2014, rising to 45,000 in 2015 and 59,999 persons in 2016. WCC subsequently issued another licence raising the limit to 64,999
During these years it came to the notice of the Local Planning Authority , the South Downs National Park Authority (SDNPA), that the start to end period of the Boomtown Fair event exceeded the 28 days per year allowed under PDR. In December 2015 a planning application was submitted to SDNPA by the land owner for the change of use from agriculture to mixed agriculture and the holding of one music festival event and one sports endurance event each calendar year on 495 hectares (1,200 acres) of land. In April 2016 this was placed before the SDNPA Planning Committee with a recommendation for a temporary permission expiring on 31 December 2019 for a sports endurance event for up to 30,000 people and a 4-day music festival for up to 59,999 attendees to be held each calendar year, to enable the effects on the special qualities of the National Park to be monitored by means of annual ecological reports submitted to SDNPA. The committee approved this subject to several conditions and a Section 106 agreement being negotiated and this was completed in November 2016 when the Decision Notice was published.
While this temporary permission was running, in July 2018 SDNPA’s Planning Committee approved changes to some of the conditions which allowed an increased attendance limit for the music festival from 59,999 to 64,999 and for its duration to be increased from 4 days to 5 days.
In December 2018 the land owner submitted a new application seeking permanent permission for change of use from agriculture to mixed agriculture and the holding of one music festival and one sports endurance event each calendar year with the music event being for 5 days with an attendance limit of 64,999. This was placed before the SDNPA Planning Committee in April 2019 when it became apparent that there had been no annual ecological reports submitted to the LPA as required by the 2016 temporary permission.. As a result, the Committee was advised that the officers considered there was not sufficient information to allow permanent permission to be granted. The Director of Planning recommended that an additional period of 6 years’ temporary permission be granted expiring on 31 December 2024. Members of the Committee expressed a wish for a strengthened condition on ecological monitoring which they said should specify dates of surveys and which species should be counted. The additional temporary permission was granted but the Decision Notice was not issued until December 2019 after the Section 106 agreement had been agreed and a Landscape and Ecological Management Plan (LEMP) had been negotiated. The latter included the ecological monitoring arrangements.
On 30 July 2019, WCC granted yet another new Premises Licence for the attendance limit to be raised from 64,999 to 75,999
On 27 December 2019 SDNPA received a Section 73 application to vary Condition 2 of the 6-year temporary permission seeking to increase the attendance limit for Boomtown Fair from 64,999 to 75,999. SDNPA informed the applicant that Section 73 was inappropriate and that a new full application should be submitted supported by an Environmental Statement. In May 2020 the Section 73 application was withdrawn.
The Boomtown Fair music event planned for 2020 was cancelled owing to the pandemic.
In January 2021 the festival operators submitted a full application for permanent permission for change of use from agriculture to mixed agriculture and the holding of one music festival in each calendar year for 75,999 persons to attend. This was supported by an Environmental Statement. This application has not yet been determined and remains under consideration by SDNPA.
The Boomtown Fair music event planned for 2021 was also cancelled owing to the pandemic.
It has since become known that the LEMP agreed in December 2019 has not been ‘triggered’ because the agreed wording stated that ‘triggering’ would not take place until the first paying customer had entered the music festival and, of course, as both the events in 2020 and 2021 were cancelled, no paying customers have entered the site since August 2019. This suggests that ecological monitoring has not been taking place even though it should have started when the initial temporary planning permission was granted in 2016.
It will have been noted that planning applications to increase the attendance limit have followed successful applications to WCC for new Premises Licences on a flip-flop basis.
* these note a personal account) and are not summitted on behalf of the the parish council
Explanatory Note: From time to time the South Downs Network (SDN) undertakes a review of key sites in and near the South Downs National Park. The objective is to assist members and the public generally in reviewing the background information in relation to current planning or environmental status. These comments are made by volunteers in a genuine effort to provide factual and/or historical information. The comments are not meant to be a formal opinion of the SDN, They are just meant to be a helpful guide to further research. The reader should always do their own research. Press Comment Letters to the press concerning Government funding for Boomtown during Covid: Boomtown Covid support grant – what happens now? What will happen to £1million grant given to Boomtown? Appalled at funding for Boomtown's relentless drive to increase scale and profits