I attended an Overton Parish Council meeting last Monday, as I knew that the proposed Light and Life Festival was on their agenda and I was interested in learning more about it.
I know very little about it, apart from the fact that it’s a religious festival organised by the travelling community each year.
The meeting was well attended with lots of locals asking questions of the Parish Council members who, frustratingly, were not in a position to offer much in the way of answers. The Festival organisers had not responded to the Council’s introductory letter and Lancaster City Council have made it abundantly clear that they want no involvement at all.
The residents of Overton don’t even know the dates or duration of the festival, all they know is that it’s sometime towards the end of July and that there are likely to be between 3,000 and 5,000 festival-goers descending on their village which has just 1,200 residents, two roads in and out and no shops at all.
The residents, understandably, are concerned about traffic management and impact on the local services and infrastructure.
The only information which the residents of Overton appear to have been given is that the festival organisation is to be discussed at the next ESAG meeting, yet their Parish Council representative is not permitted to attend; this is straight from the office of the Chief Executive of Lancaster City Council.
I sat in this meeting absolutely amazed at the way in which Overton residents appear to have been abandoned by the very council which are quick enough to collect their rates.
This isn’t a group of hysterical landowners jumping up and down berating the invasion of thousands of festival-goers; this is a group of dignified village residents who acknowledge the right of the festival to be held and who are only interested in trying to keep traffic disruption to a minimum.
I was flabbergasted to read the comment by the Chief Executive of Lancaster City Council, Mark Cullinan, who said “the council does not currently have a role to play”! What!? Come on, Mr Cullinan, if ever a community needed the support of their council it’s now.
How can you abandon these people? Councillor Margaret Pattison, recognising the potential problems, wrote to all sixty Lancaster City councillors to raise her concerns. Only four bothered to reply.
Lancaster City Council and Lancaster City councillors’ you need to get involved in this situation before real problems arise.
If you think that this many festival-goers can descend on a small village like Overton and there not be major problems, then you are deluded. Regardless of the fact that you consider there to be no planning or licensing issues, there are people issues; people who LCC are supposed to protect.