Organisers await decision on holding music event at historic Tofte Manor

Tofte Manor: site of the Labyrinth music festival. Image: Tofte Manor/Facebook

Organisers have denied that they are trying to override the conditions of their entertainment licence as they bid to hold a third music event at an historic venue.

The licence for Tofte Manor, between Sharnbrook and Souldrop, was controversially agreed in 2020 on condition that only two big events can be held every year for up to 3,650 people.

A meeting yesterday (Monday, July 5) heard a senior environmental health officer at Bedford Borough Council accuse organisers of seeking to “override” licence conditions by applying for a temporary event notice (TEN).

“This TEN seeks to override this condition by applying for a third event day and that is directly following on from an event which is already scheduled for September 18,” said Katharine Painter, a team leader, at the council’s health, safety and licensing department.

“This event will have the same infrastructure, the same event promoters, the same team dealing with health and safety, the same noise consultants.

“In effect, it is just another event day. It’s just smaller.”

The licensing subcommittee was told that attendance at TENs events are limited to 500 people.

Miss Painter conceded that the Sunday, September 19 event would be quieter than the bigger one on the previous day.

But she added that “it will still be audible in Sharnbrook and Souldrop especially in the evening.”

Top licensing lawyer Matthew Phipps told the subcommittee of three councillors that nothing about the venue’s licence prevented an application for a TEN.

He added that it was “wrong to suggest this is an event in the meaning of the premises licence.”

Speaking on behalf of applicant Nick Castleman, he added: “It is a separate, standalone event.”

Mr Phipps said the council could not impose a “blanket prohibition” on temporary events.

Tofte Manor is used as a venue for weddings and Mr Phipps invited the councillors to compare the TEN event to one of those. The police have not received complaints about public nuisance from weddings, he added.

Noise consultant Chris Hurst, of Three Spires Acoustics, said a smaller sound system is to be used for the September 19 event because the crowd is smaller.
“It will be audible but is unlikely to be disturbably significant,” he said.

“It is very, very unlikely to cause a public nuisance.”

Miss Painter, in her closing submission to the committee, said: “It will be audible to Sharnbrook and Souldrop.”

The hearing was told that the nearest houses are 500m away in Colmworth Road.

Mr Phipps’ summarised by saying that “it risks being audible but not being audible is not the licensing objective. It has to be a public nuisance.”

He added that if such issues were determined by events being simply audible, then not many would be permitted across the country at all.

The sub committee retired to consider their ruling which is set to be announced on the Bedford Borough Council website within five working days.

by David Tooley
Local Democracy Reporter

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