Belfast Council and Féile organizers decide to ‘limit the destruction’ of local community

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Belfast Council and festival organizers Féile an Phobail have taken action to ‘limit the destruction of the local community’ in the falls later this summer.

West Belfast festival officials, in conjunction with the council, have agreed to limit the number of events and impose strict conditions on nights when entertainment takes place after 11pm, following a series of complaints from residents after last year’s festival.

However, a council report said one of its own departments commented: “For this year’s festival, in addition to the diversionary event, there are three consecutive nights of music on offer until 1:00 a.m. , the cumulative impact of which can lead to community discontent.

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At the recent council licensing committee meeting, elected members granted a request from Féile organizers to allow scheduled entertainment past 11:00 p.m. on up to four occasions, between Saturday August 6 and Sunday August 14. The Féile, billed as ‘Ireland’s largest Community Arts Festival’, has been taking place for 30 years in West Belfast.

A seven-day annual outdoor entertainment license and a seven-day annual indoor marquee license had already been issued for Falls Park. The license covered Monday through Sunday from 11:30 a.m. to 11:00 p.m.

Councilors have granted the late license until 1am for four events at this year’s festival – for the Féile Diversionary Event dance concert on August 8; for Imelda May and Damien Dempsey on August 12; for Féile 80’s Night on August 13 and for Féile finalé on August 14.

However, the permit comes with a list of conditions, following complaints from locals about last year’s festival, when the council’s environmental protection unit received a total of 13 noise complaints. The majority of them were related to the music volume and the end time of the August 8, 2021 dance event.

A council official told the committee: “The festival has been going on for some time now. It has lasted more nights, but in recent years event organizers have reduced that number to three or four nights, to try to limit the destruction of the local community.

“We have contacted the police regarding these extended hours, but have not yet received a response. If you wish to approve the extended hours, it is suggested that this is subject to a satisfactory response from the PSNI.

The council’s report states: “The complaints mentioned were brought to the attention of the event organizers by this department after the conclusion of the festival and will be reported to them and their acoustic consultant in preparation for this year’s festival.

“No formal action has been taken by the EPU in relation to the noise complaints received. The noise abatement strategy must demonstrate that noise from the event will not cause unreasonable disturbance to commercial and residential premises .

“Event organizers will be reminded of the standard license condition by BC licensing agents that receipt of significant complaints may result in a further reduction in late nights. Organizers will also be required to produce an appropriate pre-notification letter for residents containing a designated contact for the event organizer to whom residents can raise concerns or file complaints.

“The extent of letter distribution, which will take place prior to the event, will be agreed with the event organizer by this department in consultation with UEP officials.”

It adds: “If a request for entertainment beyond 11:00 p.m. is granted and the council then receives a significant number of noise complaints or the complaint has such a significant impact, the authority is given to the director of planning. and building control, in consultation. with the City Solicitor, to reduce the arrival time for all subsequent nights of the event. In which case the proponent will be required to make emergency arrangements.

The conditions mean that the council decides the number of people attending each individual concert, based on the organizers’ proposals. From now on, any request for entertainment after 11 p.m. must be made three months in advance.

An outdoor boxing match and an MMA contest are also scheduled as part of the festival, on Saturday August 6 and Thursday August 11 respectively. These activities do not require a license as they do not fall under the definition of outdoor entertainment.

Earlier this month the council’s People and Communities Committee agreed to the use of the park for these events, subject to satisfactory terms being agreed, including the completion of an event management plan and relevant consultation. The decision will be submitted for ratification by the full council next month.

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