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Newbury Real Ale Festival 'a public nuisance' or 'pride of Newbury'?

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More than a hundred people have written in to support the threatened Newbury Real Ale Festival.

West Berkshire Council is to review the event licence after objections were lodged claiming it is a ‘major public nuisance’ encouraging ‘criminal activity’.

The council’s own environmental health officers also support the review on the grounds of noise limits.

In a report to the licensing committee which sits next Tuesday, officers said the stage this year was facing Newbury town centre which was different to the previous event in 2019.

“When an AC/DC tribute band known as Hells Bells started their set which lasted around 50 minutes. During this time the noise level was continuously above the agreed noise limit,” said the report’s author, Russell Davidson, the senior scientific officer for the Public Protection Partnership.

Letters supporting the annual one-day event at Northcroft have poured in to the council.

“I'm a retired police officer and I attended this year's festival,” said Mark Curran.

“Firstly, in regard to the noise, numerous people commented on how quiet, the sound system was. I've been to quite a few music festivals and the sound quality was poor, due to the low volume.”

Others scotched claims that the event was a threat to children’s safety.

“I have attended the event and find it well policed and very much a family event with families and young children happily sharing the day picnicking on the grass. I do not see it as any sort of threat to children,” said Barry Rigby.

Jamilee Dooley said: “Many customers look forward to the day of frivolity, the music and opportunity to try something new. I don’t even need to mention to attendees from outside of Newbury who’s custom we are so trying to encourage to save our dying high street.

"Utter madness to even consider revoking the licence for baseless, unfounded and unproven accusations."

Fewer letters supporting the review have been lodged.

“I would like to suggest that the council encourages the organisers to decide whether they wish to continue to mount what now feels more like a pop festival than a beer festival, and if so to find a site more appropriate to this. Or whether to return to the more community-based event of the earlier years, in which case Northcroft would be a perfectly fine venue with the advantages it brings for access and local trade,” said Bob Day.

“This festival is encouraging criminal activity and makes Newbury a dangerous place as it is encouraging alcoholism, all these addicts are being encouraged to drink until they are knocked out. It is unacceptable to use alcohol to raise money for children. Can’t they sell something like flowers or non alcoholic drinks and be inclusive to everyone?” said Pati Mhlanga.

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