The ‘unlawful’ actions of a Labour council have caused uproar in a local community

Labour's 2017 manifesto altered to read 'For the many, not the few?" in relation to Lambeth Council
Steve Topple

Labour-led Lambeth council has been forced to admit it acted ‘unlawfully’ when it made a controversial decision. But far from stopping in its tracks, the council appears to be simply bulldozing over residents’ concerns by making the same decision again.

‘Unlawful’ commercialisation?

The Field Day music festival, previously held at Victoria Park in east London, wants to move to Brockwell Park in Lambeth. But campaign groups and residents aren’t happy. They say the event will threaten the park’s biodiversity, be too big for the area, and that allowing it encourages the “commercialisation” of green spaces.

Lambeth Council initially granted Field Day a licence, anyway. It was only when campaign group Brockwell Tranquillity sent the council a legal challenge that it admitted wrongdoing.

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As Brixton Buzz reported:

Lambeth Council has admitted it didn’t follow the rules around what information it has to release. It has conceded that the decision was made unlawfully.

Specifically, as The Guardian noted, the council’s decision was unlawful because “the councillor responsible failed to publish their reasoning”. So, the council is just going to make the decision again – probably giving Field Day a green light.

Michael Stinger is the policy and communication manager at Lambeth Council. He told Brixton Buzz:

This was a procedural omission relating to how the decision was published and communicated, rather than how the decision was made or the decision itself. The decision will be made as soon as possible and published along with background documentation as soon as reasonably practicable after the decision is made.

Labour in Lambeth: a “one party state”

Campaign group Friends of Brockwell Park said:

This is absolutely the wrong decision. The intimate spaces of Brockwell Park are wholly unsuitable for events on this scale. Thousands of local people have made clear their objection and it is extremely depressing that the Council has not listened to us.

But it’s not over, yet. Brockwell Tranquillity is crowdfunding for a judicial review into the council’s decision, and for its long-term events plans more broadly.

The Canary asked Lambeth Council for comment, but it had not replied at the time of publication.

Green Party co-leader Jonathan Bartley told The Canary:

One again, Labour-led Lambeth Council has been tried and found wanting and found itself on the wrong side of the law and failing to listen to the concerns of residents. Whether it’s the bulldozing of estates, the closure of libraries or the attempt to exploit green space for profit, it’s clear that Lambeth’s one party state is bad for democracy and bad for local people.

Scratching backs

But there may be a more obvious reason why Lambeth Council is so happy to ignore residents’ concerns in favour of a reported £500,000 fee for hosting Field Day, which is owned by a company called Lovebox. In 2015, Lambeth Council decided to allow bigger and more frequent “profit-making” events in the borough’s green spaces. As the Guardian noted:

The councillor who oversaw that change in policy, Jack Hopkins, briefly juggled those public responsibilities with his current role as CEO of the Night Time Industries Association, a lobbying group for clubs, venues and festivals whose members include Lovebox, its parent company Mama, and a number of events and venues linked to Field Day’s owners.

As the old saying goes: ‘it’s not what you know, but who you know’. Especially in Lambeth.

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Featured image via Kevin Logan – YouTube

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