Waterworks Festival bid rejected

Leyton Marsh
Leyton Marsh

Report by Victoria Munro, Local Democracy Reporter

A dance music festival that organisers had hoped to hold next to a nature reserve has been denied a licence.

Waltham Forest Council’s licensing sub-committee decided that concerns over increased crime, safety, noise and the impact on wildlife were enough to turn down the application for Waterworks Festival, which had been planned for Leyton Marshes.

The team behind the festival hoped to hold a weekend-long electronic music festival every summer for the next three years on the site, adjacent to Waterworks Nature Reserve. Around 350 submissions opposing the application were received, from concerned wildlife lovers and neighbours as well as officers for Hackney Council and London Wildlife Trust.

The council’s decision statement said: “There had been a significant number of public representations to reject the application and little public support contained in the representations.

“Local residents, based on their experience of noise in their locality, including other music events, were significantly concerned about the impact of noise from this event on their quality of life during the August holiday period.”

Regarding concerns the festival would disturb protected bird species, the committee found “there was at least a real risk that such birds would be present and nesting in areas likely to be disturbed by the event”.

Responding on Twitter, resident Conchita Navarro wrote: “I and others applaud the decision to reject the Waterworks music festival application. I know the decision was multilayered but part of it shows you decided to protect the environment and the quality of life for locals.”

At a virtual meeting held last week, several objectors expressed concern about protected bird species in the area.

Wildlife artist Abigail Woodman said: “Loud music will affect birds’ ability to hear, mask their ability to communicate, disrupt their behaviour, and startle them. London Wildlife Trust agrees.

“The application should be turned down, our wildlife is simply too precious to do anything else.”

Others had objected that noise and an influx of revellers would cause a public nuisance, referencing previous events in the area that made their lives “unbearable”.

Rika Bunder told the committee: “Sound travels long distances in this area, funnelled from the floor of the valley by the prevailing wind.

“The [2018] Holi Festival was horrendous. Every person in this area could hear every word of every song, even with the doors and windows closed.”

At the same meeting, Waterworks Festival organisers insisted they were experienced in holding outdoor music events that did not disturb nature or the community.

Director Thomas Paine, who has worked with Bristol festival Love Saves The Day for nearly a decade, said: “Local residents have some real concerns because there’s been a badly-run event here and they are passionate about the site.

“But I’m confident in year two they will say it was a really well-run event and it worked.

“In Eastville Park [where Love Saves The Day is held] the nearest resident is 50 metres away and we had just seven noise complaints over the weekend.

“There will be not just one but two environmental reports to locate any area where birds are nesting and clarify what time of year they are used and we will plan accordingly.

“We take this responsibility really seriously, we come back year after year. This is our job, we are professional event organisers and we stand and fall on our last event.”

The team has yet to respond for a request to comment on the council’s rejection of the event licence.