On 28 May, Mendip District Council granted Glastonbury Festivals a new premises licence for a 50,000-capacity concert to take place in September, including all of their requests. Matthew Phipps, partner and head of licensing (England & Wales), at UK law firm TLT represented Glastonbury Festivals. He says the result will no doubt inspire other festival organisers.
From the outside, I can imagine it must have appeared like ‘the impossible task’, but while the nature of some of the challenges was unique, the challenges and process themselves were very familiar. The key thing to remember is the absolute necessity of early and meaningful engagement with potential objectors and being able to evidence your approach at a contested hearing.
Getting a new licence can appear relatively straightforward. There is a form to complete, and conditions covering the four licensing objectives to cover off. But forms and formalities do nothing to allay the concerns of residents and officers. More often than not, their objections result in a contested hearing by a licensing committee of local councillors, adding delay, cost and uncertainty.
The best approach for all new events is to engage in pre-application consultation with officers and residents. This need not be unduly complicated. A good email introducing the proposals, attaching copies of the application and the proposed conditions perhaps also attaching the layout plan, as well as a presenter or at least an introduction to the proposal is always well received.
This approach sets the tone for the process. It will not necessarily avoid objections but it tips the odds in your favour. It gives officers and residents confidence that you are transparent and open. After the initial contact, follow up on the phone/Zoom and/or host meetings, perhaps do a site walkthrough and/or attend parish or village council meetings.
If you do face a fully contested licensing hearing, then being able to point to the manner in which you have engaged, the dialogue undertaken and the agreements reached on conditions is something that almost always impresses the licensing authority and the councillors. It might add a week or two’s delay to the submission of the application, but it is almost always a worthwhile investment.