Wireless Festival could lose Finsbury Park licence as councils back campaigners over crime and noise issues

PUBLISHED: 13:00 19 July 2018 | UPDATED: 14:50 20 July 2018

The ambulance in Seven Sisters Road at the junction with Portland Rise. Picture: Keith Greywood

The ambulance in Seven Sisters Road at the junction with Portland Rise. Picture: Keith Greywood

PA Wire/PA Images

Wireless could be forced out of Finsbury Park if a campaign group’s latest efforts to see off the festival are successful.

Finsbury Park. Picture:Ken MearsFinsbury Park. Picture:Ken Mears

The Friends of Finsbury Park have long been calling for a ban on the event, which has been held in the Haringey park since 2014.

After a failed judicial review at the High Court last year, the campaigners are turning their attention back to the town hall, with an application in to review operator Live Nation’s licence.

The bid was submitted earlier this month, and significantly, has been backed by both Hackney and Islington councils.

It is being called on grounds of preventing a public nuisance and preventing crime and disorder, both relating to last year’s festival. The group is armed with the findings of an independent noise impact assessment it commissioned last year.

Suspected drug use in the streets around Finsbury Park during Wireless Festival last year.Suspected drug use in the streets around Finsbury Park during Wireless Festival last year.

Friends of Finsbury Park chair Simon Hunt said: “Wireless has been managed in a way that has shown not just neglect, but contempt for the thousands of people who live around Finsbury Park, and who have had to endure continual anti-social behaviour, violence, drugs, drug dealing, litter, and intolerable noise for days on end.

“It is simply not possible for an event the size of Wireless to be held in a public space in an inner-city area like Finsbury Park.”

The sound study, the Gazette can reveal, found during sets by headliners Travis Scott and Skepta, noise levels exceeded the legal limit and the former had windows in nearby Wilberforce Road rattling.

The existing licence states noise should not exceed the background levels by more than 15db. Richard Vivian of Big Sky Acoustics, who conducted the report, said the stipulation was “significantly flawed” because the existing background levels were measured in fixed positions and influenced by traffic noise.

Wireless crowds in Seven Sisters Road.Wireless crowds in Seven Sisters Road.

The conditions also only refer to “A-weighted” measurements – upper and middle sound frequencies – excluding low frequency noise like sub-bass.

In Stapleton Hall Road the limit is 41dbA and in Seven Sisters Road it is 63dbA, meaning noise levels should never go above 56dbA and 78dbA.

Mr Vivian said the 78dbA limit in front of a property in Seven Sisters Road is, as far as he was aware, “higher than any other event noise condition in London.”

But even using only A-weighted measurements, both Travis Scott and Skepta exceeded the limit more than once. Using bass measurements, Travis Scott’s set averaged 89db and peaked at 95db, and had “continuous bass throughout”. Skepta’s set was “spikier” but still averaged 77db with peaks of 86db.

Mr Vivian moved around residential streets for his survey. He said of standing outside in Wilberforce Road during Travis Scott’s set: “Sash windows in properties could be clearly heard vibrating in the street sometimes rattling for prolonged periods during sustained bass notes.”

After moving inside a flat, he added: “The residents explained they were leaving as soon as I had finished my assessment as they did not wish to remain in their flat and be subjected to the noise.”

Mr Vivian concluded conditions should apply to all noise sensitive properties, that limits on bass should be brought in and that the background levels should be recorded away from other noise such as traffic.

The other reason for the review bid is the anti-social behaviour (ASB) Wireless brings. Drug dealers were seen operating openly around Seven Sisters Road last year. One neighbour said: “Large groups were sitting on walls of residential properties blasting music, drinking, openly doing drugs but nothing was being done. I twice reported it to stewards but they did nothing.”

This year neighbours again complained of being stuck in their homes all weekend because the streets were full of festivalgoers causing ASB. Many are also fed up with more than a quarter of the park being closed off while summer events take place.

At a meeting this week to discuss crime and ASB in the area, one neighbour said: “I was held hostage in my own home the whole time. Haringey have a responsibility to secure licensing conditions and they did not.”

Islington’s crime chief Cllr Andy Hull was at the meeting. He compared the scenes to the much better management of 60,000 people at The Emirates when Arsenal play.

Communities chief Cllr Kaya Comer-Schwartz said: “There have been issues with noise, anti-social behaviour, crime, traffic and parking, and access for emergency vehicles and residents, and we will be proposing new licensing conditions.”

Live Nation and Festival Republic had not commented when the Gazette went to press.

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