Lambeth Council is proposing changing its policy governing large scale events in parks and green spaces so that commercial overnight camping would not be allowed in future.
The decision follows the Camp Royale event on Clapham Common, which was the first request of its kind by a commercial operator to stage an event in a Lambeth park that involved people camping overnight, and follows wide ranging consultation with local people.
Although the event passed with no major problems and raised valuable funds for the council at a time of deep government cuts, it caused concern among local residents who feared it would lead to noise and damage to the Common, and were worried that it set a precedent.
At the time of agreeing to Camp Royale, in March, the council made a commitment not to consider any similar applications for camping events until after Camp Royale was over and a full assessment of it could be made by the council and local people.
Council officers have therefore been holding a series of positive and constructive meetings with local residents and park user groups to get views on whether a similar event should ever be considered in the future.
Cllr Florence Nosegbe, Cabinet Member for Culture, said: “There are always differing views and opinions, but our job is to strike the right balance between allowing Lambeth residents and visitors the opportunity to enjoy new and exciting music, sporting and cultural activities, while respecting the needs of people who live nearby.
“This was the first time that we had had a request like this so it was a learning process, and I asked council officers to review protocols to make sure we engage and consult with local people in the best possible way. We have had some really positive meetings with parks friends groups and residents’ groups and there have been some really good ideas raised about how we can work better together in the future.
“Based on these discussions I will be making a number of recommendations to my council colleagues, and while there were no major problems with Camp Royale, on balance I will be recommending that we do not allow commercial camping in the future as I recognise that many people felt uncomfortable such an event.”
Cllr Nosegbe’s recommendation will be considered at a meeting of the council’s cabinet in the autumn, where the cabinet will formally vote to adopt the proposals.
Melanie Oxley, Chairman of Friends of Clapham Common said, “We are very encouraged to hear that Lambeth has listened to the voices of our members and other local residents. This marks an important point in the new consultative arrangements over future events planning for the Common. We recognise the bold move made here by Cabinet Member, Councillor Florence Nosegbe, who has clearly responded to public opinion. Clapham Common is not a cheap Hotel, but a public open space valued by all who use and visit it”.
The council believes that most local residents support the idea of local parks playing host to occasional cultural, sporting and musical events and festivals, like the extremely popular Lambeth Country Show, Streatham Festival, and Day of Portugal.
An estimated 600,000 people a year attend an event in the borough’s parks facilitated by the council’s events team each year, and the council developed a new policy earlier this year to allow more events in the borough’s parks to raise vital funds for council services following government cuts, and also to attract visitors to Lambeth to boost the local economy.
Lambeth is having to make £37 million pounds of savings this year due to cuts in its grant from government. Restrictions on the number of events held in parks were lifted to raise £1.25 million a year. Removing the existing restrictions has not created year round permanent event sites. It was intended to make better use of the resources available to the council to generate income which will in turn protect cultural and other services in the borough.
Camp Royale was organised by Eleven Events Ltd, a private entertainment company for well wishers to watch and celebrate the Royal Wedding.