The launch of the fourth generation Range Rover was held at the Royal Ballet School site at White Lodge on the evening of September 6. The School rented the premises to Land Rover who brought in an event management company, Imagination, to organise it.
There were 500 guests, including Land Rover dealers, media, celebrities and Olympic athletes such as Zara Phillips and Victoria Pendleton. Mark Knopfler played for the guests.
The Friends of Richmond Park had a team of observers who made notes of the proceedings and took noise recordings, photographs and video. Their report can be downloaded below and the video can be seen on:
The event created damage to the Park and potential disturbance to its wildlife. For example:
- The installation of the infrastructure took ten days (and dismantling 5 days), with large numbers of vehicles, including long articulated trucks and at least one crane. One truck dug up the acid grassland and others were parked where they were a danger to cyclists and walkers.
- Noise levels were unacceptaby high at many times during the event. We recorded noise levels of 82dBA (equivalent to kerbside of a very busy street) near White Lodge, compared with a normal nightime level of 25-28 dBA. Noise disturbance affects bird breeding density, feeding, reproduction, and nest success, and some species of bat avoid hunting in noisy areas.
- Light levels were also too high. The centre of Richmond Park is probably the darkest place in the London area at night. During the event the whole of White Lodge was lit up, with bright light at the front where guests arrived, strong lighting in the grounds, a very large bright electronic screen, searchlights sweeping the night at the opening of the ceremony, and bright spotlights shining out to the parkland throughout the evening (see the video). Most bat species will not feed in light levels above 1 Lux (1 Lux is natural full moon on a clear night), which the Range Rover event exceeded all evening by a long way. Light pollution can displace bats both temporarily and permanently. In particular, brown long-eared bats, a key species in the Park, have problems foraging in artificial light.
- Traffic was a major problem, with a steady stream of buses and cars bringing guests to White Lodge. Their lights swept constantly across the dark grassland and woodland, which disturbs both bats and birds, especially owls (of which there are four territories nearby) which are prevented from hunting successfully. While many drivers were considerate, many also exceeded the speed limit in areas that are prime places for deer at night. Also, the road up to White Lodge is narrow with no pedestrian path and many cyclists, which gives significant potential for conflict and accidents.
The scale of the problems, even after active mitigation efforts by the Ballet School and Royal Parks staff, shows that White Lodge is not a satisfactory venue for events of this size and complexity.
[Please note that we wrote much of the Friends' report soon after the Range Rover event, but held it back until after the hearing on the Royal Ballet School's licence application, which they have now withdrawn; we apologise to those who were expecting a quick Friends' response to the event].
Previous post (Sept 3) :Thursday Sept 6 sees a very large-scale event at the Royal Ballet School site at White Lodge, with disturbance to the Park and its wildlife.
We understand that the School has rented the grounds and some of the rooms of the Lodge for a grand launch of the new fourth generation Range Rover. The launch will be from 7 to 11 pm on Thursday September 6 and will involve around 400 guests (Land Rover dealers, media etc.), outdoor live music, drinks and buffet, and various well-known celebrities.
The construction (pictured at an early stage right) is taking ten days, including work well into the evening, with up to 50 contractors on site. It involves deliveries by articulated trucks of a crane and large steel structures for a giant stage (for the band and display of the cars) and other temporary buildings, which cover the whole of the White Lodge gardens. There is considerable noise during the construction and some damage to the grass and trees in the Park itself. There will also be rehearsals for those performing.
The Royal Parks were informed of the event but believed it would be smaller and less intrusive and damaging than it is; they are now working to put restrictions on what can be done. The police, other Park residents and users, and the Friends were not consulted or informed.
The School says this is a one-off event but, coming so soon after their licence application for many more events, it does not bode well for the future. On this evidence we are sceptical of the Royal Ballet School promise to us that they will be responsible custodians of the Park (see the separate News item on the School’s application for a licence for up to 30 events a year).