Fears over proposed concerts impact on wildlife

Wanstead Flats

Campaigners said closing part of an open space in East London for six weeks over the summer for pop concerts for thousands of music-lovers will have a “significant impact” on park users and wildlife, including nesting skylarks.

The team behind the popular Lovebox music festival wants to stage a series of events at Wanstead Parklands, which is owned by the City of London Corporation.

Festival organiser MAMA and Company wants to host events at Wanstead Flats featuring big name bands such as Stereophonics, The Prodigy and singer-songwriter George Ezra.

It has asked the Corporation for permission to stage the concerts and set up and break down the stages over several years.

But community groups told the Epping Forest Consultative Committee about their concerns.

The committee is looking at three options. These include two large scale events called Kayam and Steel Yard for 20,000 to 40,000 people between June and September next year.

Another possibility is allowing just one event over two consecutive weekends in June.

The Friends of Wanstead Parklands said it was concerned about the “scale and duration” of the proposed concerts and said members were worried about the impact on nature.

The WREN Wildlife and Conservation Group in east London pointed out that Wanstead Parklands is a nesting area for skylarks, whose numbers have declined dramatically.

It said: “The skylark nesting area by Alexandra Lake is adjacent to the arena site, and large numbers of people making their way to and from Forest Gate on foot will be passing directly through the core breeding area for skylarks and meadow pipits.”

WREN was also concerned about the fire risk after a series of blazes destroyed an area the size of 100 football pitches on Wanstead Flats.

It warned the fire risk “is likely to be exacerbated with large numbers of additional people on the site”.

The concerts could yield “a maximum return in income for reinvestment into the forest”, according to a report by head of visitor services for Epping Forest, Jacqueline Eggleston.

After the meeting in Loughton on 10 October, a corporation spokeswoman said consultative committee members’ views will be considered by the Epping Forest and Commons Committee on 19 November.

“If the elected members agree, in principle, that the event can be held on Epping Forest land, a full public licensing consultation will be undertaken accordingly,” she said.

“MAMA and Company’s revised proposal will be for a three-day music event in 2020.

“As well as strictly adhering to our Open Spaces Events Policy, the event organisers would be required to obtain a licence from the London Borough of Redbridge before any event is allowed to take place.

“Epping Forest is a registered charity and if the event were to go ahead, all surplus income will be reinvested in the management of the Forest.”

Cover image by Sven-Sebastian Sajak (Sven0705) (Creative Commons).