On Thursday 26th April MERA went to the Licensing Committee along with other objectors – including Cllr Joshua Peck and Cllr Marc Francis to register our concerns about the proposed use of Victoria Park for the BT London Live events connected to the Olympic Games and the implications for Mile End residents and the safety of visitors to the Park.
In the end the licence was granted but with significant changes:
- capacity at any one time now limited to 20,000 (this is because it was recognised there was no way – as predicted – that they could cope with 30,000 leaving late at night)
- no change to proposals re opening and closing nights of Olympics – recognised that these are special one-off events
- Sunday to Thursday: all music (live and recorded) to stop at 10pm and alcohol to stop at 11pm
- Friday and Saturday: all Music (live and recorded)to stop at 11pm and alcohol to stop at 11.30. The aim is to get more people to leave even earlier which will help with the pressure points re Bethnal Green and Mile End tubes.
- changes to the allowed times for set-up and take-down so that further disruption to nearby residents is minimised.
- scope for Council to change level re decibels in Waterlow Crescent if residents complain and say situation is untenable
Friday 27th July saw the venue open for its first night – the opening ceremony for the Olympic Games. We understand the venue was not full to capacity with only 15,000 people. That is half the the number of people in the original licence application.
We went down to Mile End station at closing time when customers from the venue were arriving in Mile End for tubes and buses home.
We found a steady stream of generally good natured people heading across the Mile End Road for the tube. Initially access to the station was extremely limited with groups of people let in in bursts then the gates closed to allow passengers on the platforms to board trains. We understand that trains were arriving full at Mile End rather than the planned 50% capacity. Later this was resolved to some extent by staff at Stratford and according to reports trains were arriving 80% full allowing an increased flow of customers.
People were directed to queue along the pavement and for a while the queue stretched beyond Southern Grove in front of Buttermere House. On the up side of things after an initial slow start people did get moving on to the platforms and away. A rough estimate of maximum waiting time would be not much more than half an hour.
On the down side there was little assistance form Live event stewards who seemed to have been tasked by Police to act as human barriers to guide people to the pedestrian crossing where sufficient barriers had not been provided by the organisers. The Police took on the marshalling duties seeing people across the road and together with Underground staff directed them to the end of the queue.
While the first opening night will quite possibly be the busiest for Mile End with the majority of people leaving all together after the close of the ceremony we still think that all those assurances given by those who asserted at the Licensing Sub-Committee that “we know what we’re doing because we do these things all the time” count for nothing.
Reports have been received of people taking short cuts through residential areas causing disturbance to residents and urinating in the street. This should have been prevented by effective marshalling.
It is thanks to the efforts of MERA, residents nearer the venue and Councilors that capacity was reduced by a third.
We think it is about time that the lack of recognition of the impact of events in Victoria Park to Mile End East Residents was addressed by the Council. People in Mile End do suffer disturbance from these and similar events.