PRA’s response to the Licence Application: WK 2020 13115

Re: Premises License Application WK 2020 13115, Butchers Wood, Rock’s Road, Uckfield, TN22 3PT

Piltdown Residents Association was formed in 2014 to represent the interests of approximately 140 households within the community of Piltdown being part of Fletching Parish. PRA has its own Constitution, including an Executive Committee, Chair, Vice-Chair, Treasurer and Secretary. 

Butchers Wood lies wholly in Piltdown, which is part of Fletching Parish Ward. The Wood forms part of a belt of agricultural fields and Ancient woodland which acts as a barrier to and lies immediately west of the A22 Uckfiel​d/Maresfield by-pass. The by-pass is sunk in a cutting running along the east side the Wood, there being no direct vehicular access to the A22 from roads west in Piltdown or east to Uckfield to the proposed site, the nearest point being Batts Bridge roundabout on the A275 at Maresfield. An unfenced ESCC public right of way runs alongside the top of the A22 cutting for part of the Wood, before dropping down through the Wood to two streams with bridges over and continuing across flat fields to several houses known as Fairhazel, which in turn joins the bottom end of Golf Club Lane. The streams flow south to several houses on the Shortbridge Road, a C class road with an unrestricted speed limit and 7.5-ton weight restriction. Shortbridge Road crosses the streams and curves left up the hill, to become Rock’s Road (with the same restrictions as Shortbridge Road), with several houses in a triangle to the right in an area known as Buckham Hill part of Isfield Parish, then past a further lane leading to a settlement of houses known as Copwood. This lane is opposite the field proposed for parking for the events and Rock’s Road then passes the entrances to Butchers Wood and the public right of way and then immediately across a bridge over the A22 by-pass towards Uckfield town centre. To the immediate left, after crossing the bridge, lies Lake Wood belonging to the Woodland Trust, and to the right West Park Nature Reserve behind which is the Rock’s Park housing estate. This is closer to the Wood itself than the settlements of Shortbridge and Fairhazel. As will be appreciated, there are several houses that would be open to potential nuisance and disturbance in Piltdown, plus many more in Uckfield.

PRA’s Executive Committee has received a high proportion of responses from residents, some of whom will have made representations to the Council directly, overwhelmingly objecting to the proposed Premises License application. Strong concerns have been voiced regarding the suitability of the site, particularly regarding Public safety, the potential for crime and disorder and public nuisance. It is understood that nobody will be admitted under the age of 18 which, if strictly policed, should remove any concern about the protection of children from harm from attendees of the event. The ESCC public rights of way could be a possible complication in this respect. It is understood that no camping will be allowed on the site which itself creates the probability of considerable late night/early morning traffic and people movements outside the site. It is not clear whether no overnight stays would apply to the car parking field.

Whilst the Application form itself does not provide much specific information about the intended events, PRA were aware of a draft Event Management Plan, which one of the Applicants kindly availed us of, and we appreciate the willingness to engage and inform on their part. Clearly this plan is work in progress and cannot necessarily be relied on to allay concerns PRA have about the suitability of the site and seemingly to meet actual Premises Events licensing objectives, as per sections 8.41- 8.44, 8.47 and 8.91 of the Licensing Act 2003, as well as sections 9.32, 9.38 and 9.43 of the Act. Similarly, there must be some concerns that the application meets the objectives of WDC’s Licensing Policy 2021 in respect of sections 4.4 and 10.5.

PRA’s Committee is aware of the letter of objection from one Piltdown resident, Mrs Jenny Barnard JP has submitted, and is in total agreement with the many points raised. Rather than regurgitate all these at length, there are particular points that we would wish to highlight as follows, all with our view that this is an unsuitable site for the proposed events: –

  • Public Safety

As can be seen from the public right of way and fields west below the Wood, there is a potentially dangerous sandstone ridge running south within the Wood but very close to the boundary with steep drops close to the streams below, also within the site. The ridge would present a considerable hazard to public safety, especially in the dark and possibly to event-goers in an inebriated state. The two streams immediately below in the Wood, one of which is particularly fast flowing, deep and with dangerous banks, also present further hazards. High fencing for several hundred meters in length would be required to secure the ridge and streams plus patrolling during the event, especially in the dark and early morning.

The same can be said for the eastern boundary at the top of the currently unfenced embankment of the A22 by-pass, a particularly fast-moving stretch of road. Access across the by-pass would be quite possible but extremely dangerous if undertaken, should the temptation be in hot weather in July to swim in the substantial lake just yards into Lake Wood.

The limited openings for public parking and service access have the potential to create danger for through traffic coming along Rock’s Road let alone pedestrians on the public right of way running along the side of the road across the bridge over the by-pass towards Uckfield.

Within the Wood itself, currently believed to comprise much low-level undergrowth and scrub trees beneath a canopy of some ancient high-quality trees, it would be difficult to contain free movement in safe conditions for 2,500 people, let alone up to 5,000, unless the scrub and undergrowth is substantially cleared. Any degree of clearing would create bio-diversity and wild life problems in listed Ancient woodland, itself open to usage challenge.

  • Public Nuisance and Disturbance

As mentioned in paragraph 2 above, there are several properties in Fairhazel, Shortbridge, Copwood and Buckham Hill, if not further afield in Sharpsbridge Lane, Golf Club Lane, and properties south of the eastern end of the A272 that, because of the nature of the valley created by the streams and the height of the ground of most of the Wood, will have huge potential for disturbance, both in terms of noise and light pollution. This would be exacerbated by any clearing of scrub and undergrowth.

  • Prevention of Crime and Disorder

Naturally households in the immediate vicinity have voiced concerns that people attending the event for such long hours may be tempted to stray from the site, especially with the long licensing hours being proposed. Once off-site, there would be concern about the ability to control movements locally in Piltdown and Fletching, or indeed in Uckfield town centre where there has been recent history of disturbance in the evenings, and has had problems with County Lines activities. With a two-day set-up and the two days events themselves, especially in subsequent years, it will be impossible to keep the location of the event secret, which may attract undesirable elements.

  • Protection of Children from Harm

Assuming the age restriction of over 18 for attendees of the event, if properly policed, this should not present a problem as such. There could however be a potential exposure for harm to children using the public rights of way beside and through the Wood.

For all the above reasons, PRA objects to this Premises Licensing Application and would ask WDC’s Licensing Sub-Committee to consider seriously the points we have made. PRA would also like the opportunity to be represented in person by a member of our Executive Committee at the Sub-Committee Meeting, which we understand is scheduled for early April. Should the Sub-Committee grant a Premises License, we would also like to be represented at the Safety Advisory Group meeting to consider the Event Management Plan submitted by condition.

In my capacity as Secretary, Piltdown Residents Association, I am submitting their formal response to the above Licensing Application, and would appreciate your acknowledgement that our objection is valid and that it will be presented to the Committee.

Yours faithfully

Joanne Emerson

on behalf of the Piltdown Residents Association and Peter Roundell, Chair.

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