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Underage drinking claims made at review hearing of CarFest licence
THE police are to look into possible incriminating comments made by opponents of CarFest at a review hearing.
Five residents who live near Laverstoke Park Farm, where the major summer festival was held last year, presented evidence to Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council’s licensing sub-committee in an attempt to curtail this year’s event, scheduled for August 23 to 25.
They claimed the conditions of the licence, which allows 20,000 people on the site, were breached by failing to prevent crime and disorder and failing to protect children from harm Mark and Karen Davies, who asked for the review, said the event, which was the idea of Radio 2 DJ Chris Evans, made their lives a misery because of bright lights, loud noise and disruption at their home, Keepers Cottage, which is on the festival site.
Mr Davies, 54, chief executive of Imperial College Healthcare, who has five children, asked the committee to consider placing various conditions on Laverstoke’s licence, including a 600-metre buffer zone between the event and people’s homes – a suggestion which was supported by MP Sir George Young in a letter he sent to the council.
In their dossier of evidence, the couple, along with other neighbours, presented photographs of children who they claimed had bought alcohol at the festival and had walked into the event without a ticket.
Ian Harrison, from Overton, said: “My 15-year-old son was sold alcohol near the stage. He entered the festival on both days and wasn’t challenged by security. He had a marvellous time, as you would, breaking into somewhere and drinking alcohol.”
However, Superintendent Paul Brooks, who spoke on behalf of Hampshire Constabulary and is responsible for licensing and festivals, told the hearing: “There have been a number of offences committed by the witnesses which we will investigate.”
However, he added the photographs showing children holding paper cups did not prove they were sold alcohol. He described CarFest, held last August bank holiday weekend, as “one of the safest festivals in the whole county, if not the safest”, and said the police had no concerns about the licence.
The licence was defended by Brand Events, which runs the festival for BBC Children in Need, and by Clare Scheckter, who owns the farm with her husband Jody, a former Formula One champion.
Neil Levene, regional director of Brand Events, said he gave his personal mobile number to Mr and Mrs Davies last year, and told them to call if they experienced any problems. He said the event operated a Challenge 21 policy on alcohol and added: “We know the amount of alcohol bought and by no means was this a drinking festival.”
However, Mr Levene did admit that some of the entrances would need to be better manned this year.
He said if the 600m buffer zone were approved, it would make the event impossible.
Mrs Scheckter said feedback from residents following CarFest 2012 was “overwhelmingly positive.”
David Roberts, solicitor for the Scheckters, said there was “no real evidence” to show the licence had been breached.
Councillors on the committee took an hour and 15 minutes to make a decision and imposed conditions on Laverstoke’s licence. These include that live music should not be permitted within a 400m radius from the mid-point between Lower Whitehill House and Keepers Cottage, and that lighting cannot be directed towards these houses after 11pm.
Cllr Diane Taylor, who chaired the meeting, said the conditions would prevent public nuisance.
Following the review, Mrs Scheckter said she was “content” with the outcome.