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Police object to We Are FSTVL Halloween event in Hainault

PUBLISHED: 18:00 11 September 2019

We Are Halloween FSTVL in Hainault Forest Country Park has got the go-ahead. Picture: Ken Mears

We Are Halloween FSTVL in Hainault Forest Country Park has got the go-ahead. Picture: Ken Mears

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Police have objected to a planned dance music festival going ahead at Hainault Forest Country Park, citing concerns about drugs, crowd management and an "insufficiently robustly planned event".

The event, We Are Halloween FSTVL, is due to take place on October 26, from 11am-11pm.

The one-day festival comes from the same organisers as Upminster's We Are FSTVL - a three-day event held in neighbouring borough Havering in May - which attracted widespread media coverage this year after long queues led to crowds pushing through security gates and people collapsing.

Billed as the UK's biggest Halloween event, We Are Halloween FSTVL will have four indoor arenas.

Redbridge Council will decide whether to grant the it a premises licence at a licensing sub-committee meeting on Thursday, September 12.

In his objection, Pc Oisin Daly, Met Police licensing officer, said the event management plan was incomplete and lacked sufficient detail.

The applicant, Mick Bowles, first put forward a basic proposal for the festival in December 2018.

"At that point, he was informed that alongside any application police would expect an event management plan to accompany the application and specifically the security, crowd management and transport plans," Pc Daly said.

"At the time of submitting the application these documents were absent."

Commenting on this year's We Are FSTVL in Upminster, Pc Daly added: "A serious concern in relation to the 2019 event was the delay in the organisers producing a crowd management plan.

"On the Saturday of this year's festival there was a crushing incident at the entrance, which received widespread press and social media coverage.

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"One of the causes of the crush was the introduction of digital wristbands and the need for these to be scanned at the front gate.

"Within the crowd management plan for that festival there was no mention of the wristband technology, meaning the police - and other responsible authorities - had no opportunity to consider the likely ramifications of the introduction of such technology on crowd control and management."

Police have been involved with the Upminster event for a number of years.

"There is a considerable police resource dedicated to the event and policing costs this year for the three-day event exceeded £140,000, which gives an indication of the support provided over the days to the festival and its environs," Pc Daly said.

"The premises licence holder has employed individuals within the business who are experts in their field, which is to their credit; however, police have concerns that these individuals have at times been expected to perform too many roles diluting their abilities."

Pc Daly continued: "The applicant has acknowledged that there is an issue with drugs at music festivals of this nature.

"Whilst it is encouraging to see that the organisers have considered drugs as a risk they remain a recurring theme at festivals they operate and this is reflected in the arrests made in relation to drugs at their Havering event over the past four years."

The licensing officer also cited concerns about potentially intoxicated revellers not being managed effectively after the event, especially in darkness, which could result in accidents or worse on nearby busy roads.

He said: "Whilst the projected attendance figures are not excessive for a music festival, 9,999 people descending on the road at once could disrupt the transport network, causing nuisance to local residents and presenting a safety risk to patrons."

Pc Daly concluded: "Police have concerns regarding the lack of detail provided at the time of the application, and now, the previous history of the applicant omitting details from event plans, the risks of drugs at the event and the potential risks to patrons and members of the public on ingress, egress and dispersal from the area.

"Police ask the committee to consider the rejection of this application based on the lack of detail provided and the risks that are involved in an as-yet insufficiently robustly planned event."

The applicant declined to comment when contacted by the Recorder.

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