Music festival granted five-year licence for Mill Hill park

Thousands of revelers will descend on Copthall Playing Fields each summer up until 2027, reports Simon Allin, Local Democracy Reporter

Copthall Playing Fields and partygoers
Copthall Playing Fields will host 51st State Festival until 2027 (credit Google/inset credit Tijs van Leur via Unsplash)

A festival set to attract thousands of music-lovers to playing fields in Mill Hill has been granted a licence to run for five years.

The decision means 51st State Festival, billed as “a celebration of the roots of house music”, is expected to return to Copthall Playing Fields annually up to 2027.

The event will have a maximum capacity of 15,000 this year and 17,500 next year, rising to 19,999 on each day during the following years.

Councillors agreed to award the licence to the organiser, SVA Productions, during a meeting of Barnet Council’s licensing subcommittee on Tuesday. The decision is subject to a 21-day appeal period once it is published, which is expected to be on or before 13th April.

The festival will be held on only one weekend this year – 5th-6th August – and two weekends in subsequent years, when it will be allowed to run from Friday to Sunday.

Boxing and wrestling were removed from the application at the request of the police, and alcohol will be allowed for sale on the premises only.

Philip Kolvin KC, the applicant’s barrister, told the meeting there had been no representations from responsible authorities and licence conditions had been agreed with the police.

He explained that if the event’s conditions were breached or harm was caused to the licensing objectives, anyone could apply to review the licence. There would also be a hotline residents could call during the event if they had any problems, he added.

The KC said the noise limit would be reduced this year, meaning the perceived level would be around half that of events held in other London parks. Acoustics consultant Chris Hurst said noise levels would be monitored and claimed they would not be much higher than the sound created by passing traffic.

The committee heard objections from Elizabeth Silver of Mill Hill Preservation Society, Geoffrey Silver of Mill Hill Residents’ Association, and Bunns Lane resident Susan Wallis-Connolly.

Elizabeth told the meeting that the gradual increase in the number of people attending the events would have an impact “up to 16 times greater than we had in 2022” and the proposal went against a government commitment to guarantee access to local green space.

Adding that “up to 20,000 drinking and partying adults, as well as the noise levels” would discourage local families, children and sports clubs from using the Copthall area, Elizabeth called for the licence to be granted for only one year at a time.

Geoffrey Silver, from Mill Hill Residents’ Association, said many residents were “angry” that the council was granting permission for “increasingly large festivals until 2027 without approaching nearby residents”. He said the public would lose access to around 60% of the playing fields during the event and 50% when the stages were being dismantled.

Claiming last year’s event had caused “some level of nuisance”, Susan called for lower limits on the number of attendees and for the applicant to have to reapply in two years’ time.

The applicant’s team pledged to work with residents to inform them about the event and to manage the numbers of attendees. The committee also heard that a field next to the event site would remain accessible to the public.

Following a private discussion, chair Alison Cornelius said the committee would grant the licence with amendments offered by the applicant, meaning the event would only be held on one weekend this year, would be limited to dates in August and would not be held on bank holidays.

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