Bah humbug! Campaign bidding to cancel St Albans Christmas Festival

PUBLISHED: 16:05 21 November 2018 | UPDATED: 16:05 21 November 2018

A small group of residents are attempting to prevent the Meraki Christmas Festival.

A small group of residents are attempting to prevent the Meraki Christmas Festival.

©Andrey Kiselev - stock.adobe.com

A handful of local residents are fighting to cancel Christmas by scuppering the city’s inaugural winter festival.

A small group of residents are attempting to prevent the Meraki Christmas Festival.A small group of residents are attempting to prevent the Meraki Christmas Festival.

Homeowners living adjacent to Verulamium Park are at the centre of a campaign to close down the Meraki Christmas Festival planned to take place over the festive season.

They have already succeeded in driving the event out of the park between November 30 and December 6 - when it will be held at Herts County Showground - but are now waging an eleventh hour battle to prevent the free event from being hosted in the park’s Front Meadow from December 8-22.

Campaigners have been visiting businesses across the city trying to drum up opposition to the event, claiming it would be a “late night rave” which would cost £105 a ticket.

In fact, the family-focused festival will feature a funfair, skating rink, Christmas movie house, elves workshop, an ice bar and Santa’s Grotto.

In a letter of objection submitted to St Albans district council on behalf of residents living in 1-10 Pondswick Close, they objected on the grounds that the festival would cause unacceptable impact on the local highways network; that there was a flood risk vulnerability; there would be an impact of development on biodiversity and protected species; and there would be an impact of noise and light pollution on neighbouring residents.

Pondswick Close resident Ian Smith is one of those objecting to the plans, and told the Herts Ad:

“I am just a resident worried about the future of Verulamium Park.

“Many residents across St Albans have exercised their right to object to a radical change in the use of the park.”

Speaking in a video released on Facebook, Meraki founder Kerry Marks said: “There is a small group of people who live along the path area of Verulamium Park who are fighting for the Christmas Festival not happening for the city.

“Unfortunately they don’t believe that events should run in the park and so we are in a position where we are having to relocate the start of the festival to a new venue.

“We really need your support on this - we need you to write into the planning team on the district council and let them know why a Christmas Festival for your family or your business is so important.

“As a small company we just really have to fight for what we believe in, and that is that St Albans deserves an incredible Christmas and we’ll make sure that happens.”

The organisers have already agreed to a string of concessions including:

* Bringing forwards the licence to 10.30pm;

* Removing all outdoor music and public address systems and restricting it to inside the tipis;

* Taking away the dodgems because of residents’ concerns about the noise;

* Offering to have security guards patrolling the park side of the River Ver to prevent littering or disruption from festival-goers;

* Promising to meet with residents in January to review this year’s festival.

A separate Christmas market is being held in Vintry Garden from November 30 to December 22. The previous stand-alone market never broke even under district council control, which led to Meraki taking over and overhauling the event as part of a wider Christmas Festival.

A date for a planning decision on the Christmas Festival has yet to be determined, but a council spokesperson said: “St Albans City and District Council is the Local Independent Planning Authority. Our job is to determine each planning application on its merits according to planning law.”

To contact the planning department and show your support for Meraki Christmas Festival, please email: planningcomments@stalbans.gov.uk

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