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‘We’ve been pragmatic’, say politicians accused of going missing at Wireless review

Islington Council withdrew their submissions to the review after new conditions were accepted by festival promoters

19 October, 2018 — By Emily Finch

Lucie Cohen: ‘Where were the councillors?’

“WHERE’S Islington Council?” was a question bandied about by residents at the public hearing to determine the future of Wireless Festival.

Two councillors from Hackney, which also borders the festival site, were called by community group Friends of Finsbury Park to give evidence to the licensing committee, who have responsibility for the park.

Councillor Clare Potter, from Brownswood ward, was applauded when she told the committee that Live Nation, organisers of the festival, should have their licence revoked.

She said the impact of the festival “was far too great” and that a large number of vulnerable residents were negatively affected by it.

Councillor Caroline Selman, Hackney’s cabinet member for community safety, said promoters had “genuinely listened” to the concerns of Hackney residents ahead of this year’s festival, but added: “There were still concerns that remain in terms of impact on residents.”

Lucie Cohen, an Islington resident who gave evidence on behalf of Friends of Finsbury Park, said after the meeting: “It’s interesting that Hackney councillors came tonight to represent their residents. It was noticeable that Islington weren’t there. Where were the Islington councillors?”

READ MORE: ‘You feel like you’re living in a war zone during Wireless festival’

Resident group Highbury Community Association has raised similar concerns in its newsletter, which voiced its “disappointment” that Islington Council had withdrawn its objections to the festival a few days before the licensing committee. It said the council had decided to support the concerts over concerns raised by residents.

Islington initially submitted a long list of concerns to be considered by the Haringey committee, but these were dramatically withdrawn on Monday in exchange for four new conditions and 16 amendments to the current conditions, all accepted by the festival promoters.

The Haringey committee were told to ignore Islington Council’s 65-page submission in which a council officer said “the lack of safe access to the site in the event of an emergency was particularly concerning”, with road closures seeing residents “landlocked”.

The report also said there was an “un­acceptable impact on local residents” during the festival.

On Twitter, Islington’s Town Hall leader Richard Watts defended his council’s lack of presence at the licence review and the withdrawal of its submission.

He said: “The promoters of Wireless would emit a pretty hollow laugh at the suggestion we’ve backed them. The conditions we’ve secured make their life harder and somewhat less profitable. What we have been is pragmatic at getting improvements and not risk getting nothing at all.

“Instead, by engaging we think we’ve achieved genuine improvements for our residents, which we would not have got if we’d just fought and (it feels likely) lost.

“As I’ve already said, if the new conditions don’t improve the management of the event we will re-visit this.”

The four new conditions agreed between Live Nation and Islington Council, ahead of the decision by Haringey, include a new noise-monitoring location in the borough and meetings with the licence holder before and after the festival to include Islington residents and council workers.

Street cleaning in the borough will be organised by Islington Council itself and not Hackney and will be financed by Live Nation.

The conditions also propose “the possibility of introducing event-day parking controls in Islington” with Live Nation “willing to explore financing Islington’s costs of the controls”.

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