The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: Mr C complained about noise and other disturbance from two large events held in a park near to his property in 2019. We are unable to find fault with the actions of the Council.
- Mr C complains that Liverpool City Council (the Council), in respect of events taking place in a nearby park in the summer of 2019:
- failed to ensure Mr C was consulted or notified about the events;
- granted licences without taking into account the severe impact on local residents;
- failed to monitor noise levels during the event;
- failed to respond to complaints from Mr C during the events;
- failed to control the noise from the temporary trackway or the floodlight generators;
- failed to control anti-social behaviour on the site after the event; and
- failed to respond to Mr C’s complaint.
The Ombudsman’s role and powers
- We investigate complaints about ‘maladministration’ and ‘service failure’. In this statement, I have used the word fault to refer to these. We must also consider whether any fault has had an adverse impact on the person making the complaint. I refer to this as ‘injustice’. If there has been fault which has caused an injustice, we may suggest a remedy. (Local Government Act 1974, sections 26(1) and 26A(1), as amended)
- If we are satisfied with a council’s actions or proposed actions, we can complete our investigation and issue a decision statement. (Local Government Act 1974, section 30(1B) and 34H(i), as amended)
How I considered this complaint
- I have considered the complaint and the documents provided by the complainant, made enquiries of the Council and considered the comments and documents the Council provided. Mr C and the Council had an opportunity to comment on my draft decision. I considered any comments received before making a final decision.
What I found
- Mr C lives in a park which stages large events in the summer.
Notice of events/licences
- Two events were due to take place in the summer of 2019. Event A was a one-day music event and Event B was a three-day mixed event. Event B applied for a licence in 2018 and Event B in early 2019. Both applications went through the statutory application process which involved an advertisement on or near the premises and an advert in a local newspaper. The Council received three representations in respect of Event B and None for Event A. Both were approved by the Licensing Committee.
- In late December 2018 Event A also distributed 10,000 letters to all addresses in the local area including Mr C’s. These gave details of the event and invited residents to drop-in session in January 2019. Between 25-30 residents attended along with representatives from the Council. Event A posted notices in the park in February 2019.
- Event B sent a letter in May 2019 giving further details of the dates and timings of the event. Event A sent a similar letter in July 2019. Both gave details of how to complain during the event.
Noise management plans
- Before each event both organisers had produced a noise management plan which were agreed by the Council prior to the events taking place. The purpose of these was to proactively manage noise to avoid nuisance to nearby residents. The Council does not monitor noise at the events but expects the organisers to ensure noise levels remain within the specified limits and that the organisers would monitor the event to ensure this requirement is met.
Mr C’s first complaint
- Mr C says in July 2019 he received a notice that an event was due to take place in the park to the rear of his property in August 2019 (Event B). He said this was the first he had heard about the event.
- He complained to the Council about the lack of notice and potential for noise disturbance based on a similar event the previous year: in particular a temporary road track erected very close to their property taking cars to and from the car park late into the night.
- The following week he also added an additional complaint about the erection of the temporary road for Event A which was taking place that day. The car park was in constant use from 8am. He had received no notice and was not aware of it.
- The following day he made a further complaint about problems during the event: disturbance from the noise of track, cars, music vibrations and antisocial behaviour. They had tried to complain and were promised a visit by a sound technician but no-one came. From 9pm a very large floodlight came on powered by noisy generators and thousands of people/vehicles were leaving the site. They tried to call the number provided to complain but were directed to the event organisers who did not respond until the third call and then said they had full permission and would not be removing the floodlights. The antisocial behaviour and noise continued until after 2am. Some people stayed in the park drinking. He and his family had no sleep so left to sleep at a friend’s house at 5am.
- The Council responded in early August 2019. It said an officer had tried to visit that morning but unsuccessfully. It had passed on his complaint to the event organiser. It said it had granted an event licence and had the organiser had provided evidence of the notice drop to local residents. 1400 cars used the trackway to access the park between 10 am and 23.30. This year the track was made of rubber rather than metal to improve the sound issues. The floodlights were necessary for safety and security.
- The Council said a member of the event organiser’s team had tried to call and visit him but had been unsuccessful. The independent safety team had taken noise readings near his property and confirmed they were within the acceptable limits. The Council apologised for the floodlighting and said Mr C’s comments would form part of the debrief for the event.
Mr C’s second complaint
- Mr C responded saying the Council had confused him with another resident as no one had called or visited him the previous day. They had never received any consultation notices, this year or last. He suggested the event should not have taken place so close to residents’ homes and alternative entrances/exits should have been used. Noise from cars, anti-social behaviour and noise from festival goers and light pollution were unacceptable. He disputed the times of the calls and that any readings had been taken near his property. He repeated his family had no sleep so left to sleep at a friends’ house at 5am.
- The Council responded saying an officer had tried to visit the previous day and would try again today. But they were not successful.
- Event B went ahead.
- In mid-August Event A organiser responded to Mr C’s complaint. It apologised for inconvenience caused by the event and the delay in dismantling the equipment due to poor weather on the Sunday. It repeated the notification and licensing processes it had followed. It said the trackway and the generators/floodlights were essential. The noise from generators fell within acceptable limits. It had records that his calls were received and they tried to respond but other incidents may have taken precedence. Its noise management team monitored noise levels at pre-agreed points and noise levels were not exceeded.
- The terms of the licence granted were not breached but they empathised with Mr C’s predicament as he was so close to the site. It offered its deepest apologies and complimentary VIP tickets for the event next year.
Mr C’s third complaint
- In September 2019 complained to Council. During event B, Mr C’s wife swerved to avoid a beer can thrown into their garden and fell, breaking her ankle. Mr C demanded that tracks should be placed way from their property the next year.
- The Council responded saying it had already responded to his complaint.
- Mr C complained further saying he wanted a response to his complaint from the Council not the event organiser, as the Council was responsible for allowing the event to take place on the site.
- Mr C complained to us.
Compliance reports after the events
- Both event organisers provided a compliance report after the event showing the monitoring of the noise levels during the event. For Event A the organisers monitored the noise near Mr C’s house (due to complaints from him at 18.46 and 19.27), in addition to four other locations. These showed that the noise levels remained within the required limits and that the noise was barely audible from Mr C’s location.
- The report for Event B noted that Mr C had made a complaint to the Council about cars entering and exiting the site and noise from the floodlight. In response the organisers had taken a noise reading during the time traffic was entering the site and was satisfied it was within acceptable levels. It visited the site at 22.21 and noted there was no tower light in the vicinity, the nearest light being 125 metres away.
- I understand Mr C and his family experienced nuisance and inconvenience as a result of the events at the adjacent site. However, I cannot identify any fault in the way the Council acted in balancing the needs of local residents against possible disturbance from the events for short periods of time.
- The event organisers properly applied for licences which were publicised and considered by the Council. I understand Mr C says he was not aware of either event but in the case of Event B there was significant notification prior to the licence application (including direct notification) and local advertising. The Council obtained evidence to show this notification was carried out. In respect of Event A it obtained a recurring licence in 2018 and sent a notification letter in May 2019.
- The licence applications were advertised on the Council’s website and comments invited. Three were received for Event B and none for event A. The Council placed a number of conditions on the licence to ensure the event was properly managed and nuisance controlled as far as was practical. This included provision of noise management plans which were agreed by the Council. The organisers had acted on one of Mr C’s complaints from the previous year about the temporary trackway and changed the material to rubber to decrease the noise levels. This is evidence that the Council took into account the concerns of local residents in considering the applications.
- Responsibility for monitoring noise and responding to complaints during the events was for the event organisers. The notification letters provided the appropriate numbers to do so and the Council provided detail of complaints made to it during Event B to ensure checks and adjustments could be made in response.
- The compliance reports provided by the organisers show that Mr C’s complaints were received and monitoring done near the rear of his property to assess the situation. The Council and the Event A organiser responded to his complaints promptly and provided explanations of what measures had been taken to deal with the issues raised. I accept that none of this improved the situation for Mr C, but I cannot find fault with the way in the which the Council dealt with the situation.
- Mrs C’s accident was unfortunate, but I cannot say the Council was responsible for its occurrence. The organisers had provided details of their security arrangements which satisfied the Council that appropriate measures were being taken to ensure the site was secure.
- I have completed my investigation into this complaint as I am unable to find fault causing injustice in the actions of the Council towards Mr C.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman