Here are the comments we sent to the council, based on what you said to us. I hope you feel we got it right - please let us know. A printable pdf document is here.
The council has now invited MUG to a meeting and we are asking exactly what this will cover. Please keep your comments coming. You don't have to be original - if many people say the same thing, that's useful.
Millfields Users Group comments on the two applications for funfairs on Millfields in March-April 2012
George Irvin 9-18 March
Joseph Manning 20-29 April
We have concerns about events quotas, timing, duration, previous breaches of terms and damage to the park, location and site layout, and affordability for local families.
It is not easy to get a representative opinion from a park user group in just 1 week. The committee meets monthly and the group quarterly. Fortunately email (300+ addresses) and the web help us here, and the web page asking for opinions has been viewed 58 times since Monday. Some park users' comments can be seen following this item:
Other comments have been received by email.
How many funfairs should Millfields host a year?
LBH's draft events policy proposed a maximum of one, and MUG did not disagree. The council must have had reasons for setting this maximum, and I think it follows precedent. In 2011 we suddenly had two: Manning's ran in (I think) June and Irvin's in July, both for 2 weekends. Irvin's had in fact applied for a single weekend in September, and my records don’t include any consultation of MUG on the change of date and duration (my records include all MUG committee discussion emails to February 2011, at which point I became secretary and have all council emails to MUG). I can't find a record of an application from Manning's for 2011. I have recently asked the events team to send me any paperwork that's missing in both these cases.
For the time being (and possibly wrongly), I have to assume that an application for one fair for one weekend in 2011 somehow translated into two fairs for 4 weekends (and weekdays). Obviously such a step change in intensity of use shouldn't pass by default but should be clearly decided upon, since it disagrees with the council's draft policy. The balance of comments is, I think, against having more than one fair a year. We should aim for more community-originated free events such as the Family Fun Day
Almost everyone who has commented has objected to holding 2 funfairs so close together. They would occupy the park for four weeks out of eight. MUG must therefore object.
A 2-weekend run, with erection and striking, results in a fair occupying the park for a fortnight. Millfields is theoretically a large park, if you add up the acreage, but its dissected layout means that the land occupation of such a large event is more intrusive than simple arithmetic would suggest.
Irvin's seems to be proposing to open on the intervening weekdays (it would be good to confirm this) but Manning's explicitly says it is not. We suggest users will be unhappy with a fair simply parking, closed, on the park in a large and prominent position for a week.
On the other hand, if Irvin's opens on the weekdays, who will be its customers? It aims at families, but the dates it requests fall in school term. (The School holiday is 30 March - 16 April.) Would it in practice simply be using Millfields for parking for a few days as well?
LBH, by the way, gets significantly less revenue from the fairs on days they are not open - £500-600 less depending on the size (see Events Consultation).
Breaches of Terms, and Damage not made good
The fairs are presumably subject to 'Terms And ConditionsFor Hire Of Parks And Open Spaces', LBH 2011.
I have posted online photographs and comments on breaches and damage by Irvin's in 2011:
I didn't scrutinise Manning's so closely (because it didn’t occur to me that the council would permit such blatant breaches) and can't comment on their behaviour. Presumably the events team have the site plan which each fair submitted and it would be interesting to see those for both fairs for this application and for 2011.
Irvin's put a pool on grass, a very heavy weight with presumably an impermeable base. The site was bare of grass afterwards, remains a scar, and recovery has been so sparse that re-seeding must surely be required (see photo on web).
Terms: "No plastic or rubber carpet underlay shall be placed on the grass at any time. Coconut matting or similar materials shall not be laid on the grass for more than 3 days. No wooden flooring shall be laid on the grass for more than 10 days." (T&C 6.4)
Irvin's parked an HGV 1 metre from a young tree (see photos on web). The permitted distance for HGVs is 7 metres, for vans 5 and for cars 4 metres. At other young trees, vehicles were parked right against the crowns and may have also been in breach. (T&C 6.6)
'Any damage caused to the grass or trees as a direct result of the Event will be
charged to the Hirer. The cost of the repair shall be determined by the Council’s
Parks Department and shall be non-negotiable.' (T&C 6.4.12)
Damage to tree roots may not be evident for some years but perhaps the parks department could invoice on the basis of likelihood of the trees, for example, suffering a setback in growth or being more susceptible to disease. Will the council pursue Irvin's for this and for the cost of re-seeding the grass?
Clearly the council must take in hand the communication and enforcement of terms and conditions affecting trees and other plants before MUG can agree to either of these applications.
Location in the park and submission of site plan
The fairs sites stretched into the north Millfields arboretum with the unhappy results just described. The arboretum is (obviously) dotted with semi-mature trees and MUG questions whether it is a suitable site for the heavy vehicles and rides of a funfair. We certainly wish to see a site plan before agreeing to any more funfair applications.
(For those unfamiliar with the site, the arboretum lies towards the east of north Millfields and runs in a north-south belt parallel to the waterside plane trees. It is an important feature in the Millfields Biodiversity plan and has been, and will continue to be, the focus of much volunteer care and development by local people.)
A user commented on Manning's:
"We spent £14 to get 3 (short) rides per child - felt ripped off - They advertise a certain rate per ride outside but once you're in they seem to have a lot of rides with more expensive prices that 'aren't included'!"
We suggest that a family-oriented event shouldn't be getting this kind of feedback. Will the council investigate pricing and affordability for local families?
Again, this comment militates in favour of free community-based family events such as the Fun Day.
Visitor origins, Traffic, Parking and Sustainable Transport
Beecholme Estate TRA tells us that families there enjoy the fairs. Residents in the Leagrave/Hillstowe Street area draw attention to increased traffic and parking. Is anything known about the proportion of local to non-local visitors? What traffic and parking load is expected as a result of non-local visitors?
We would like to suggest provision of secure supervised cycle parking inside the fair to encourage families to cycle there. Several local primary schools have cycle training programmes and everything possible should be done to get parents cycling with their skilled-up children. Advice on this can be had from Streetscene's sustainable transport officer. It might be interesting to lay on a Dr Bike so that bikes can be fixed while families enjoy the fair.
Security and public order
A member of the Community Action Panel tells us that the CAP and the police are happy with the fairs' approach to order, and this testifies that both fairs take this question seriously and are successful. MUG was approached by one or two residents of Casimir Road about street disturbances nearby the fairs, perhaps as a result of groups of youths being refused entry. We don't have very clear information about this, and don’t know whether it was reported to the police. But we suggest that it would be worth the Safer Neighbourhoods team paying some attention to this question during the fairs.