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Call to clip wings of New Forest Fairy Festival as organiser confirms 'Covid-safe' event is going ahead

This year's New Forest Fairy Festival has been limited to 500 people per day
This year's New Forest Fairy Festival has been limited to 500 people per day

THE New Forest Fairy Festival is preparing to go ahead despite the objections of a senior district councillor who claimed it risks spreading coronavirus.

The popular two-day ticketed event, held on land adjacent to Burley Manor in Burley, has reduced the maximum number of day attendees this year to around 500 and brought in Covid-19 secure measures.

Yet Cllr Mark Steele, New Forest District Council’s cabinet member for leisure and wellbeing, believes the festival should be stopped.

He said he is “very much sympathetic” to charities that have had to shelve events, and added: “I do not wish to experience a second wave of lockdown, locally or as a nation.”

On Wednesday the Prime Minister announced restrictions on gatherings of more than six people, which left uncertainty about how planned public events would respond.

The folk-themed weekend event is scheduled for 26th and 27th September between 10am and 6pm. It features a “healing garden” and offers non-contact holistic workshops, spiritual talks, fairy yoga and burlesque dance workshops.

Festival organiser Holly Norman told the A&T she had worked through coronavirus precautions with the help of NFDC and emergency services.

She said: “We understand that both the council and the other agencies are content for our event to proceed with the robust plans that we have in place, which are in accordance with the government guidance and advice that we have received.

“We have done everything that we can to ensure that anyone attending the festival remains safe.”

Cllr Steele’s opposition to her event was revealed in documents ahead of an NFDC licensing sub-committee meeting on Monday. Ms Norman initially made an application to sell alcohol and have music at the event, which prompted objections.

But whatever the outcome, she can press ahead as she has already secured permission both for the event and alcohol sales with a temporary events notice (TEN).

Sub-committee documents explained that three days after the consultation process expired Ms Norman was told a licensing hearing was required because of the objections, so she submitted the TEN.

Hampshire County Council public health officers looked into the Covid-19 mitigation measures proposed by Ms Norman and could see no reason to stop the event, which has run at the site since 2013.

Hampshire police and NFDC environmental health officers also raised no objections, leading to the event being granted the TEN licence.

However, in addition to Cllr Steele, there were three other objectors from the village. One pointed to the likelihood of a “second wave” of coronavirus, shutdowns of areas in the Midlands and the north, and new daily infections increasing above 1,000 in the UK.

Another added: “We are still in the middle of the Covid-19 crisis with so many countries all over the world experiencing a second wave. Why would you allow a huge gathering of people in a small village centre?

“The field may be a reasonable size but the village and road are not. People from all over the country will be funnelled into a very small village centre.”

In documents, Ms Norman outlined how there will be door staff and stewards, a daily debrief for all workers, ‘Challenge 25’ scheme operated, drinks sold in plastic containers and independent sound engineers monitoring the sound levels.

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