Latest news: The Royal Ballet School has withdrawn its licence application to hold commercial events at White Lodge. Their lawyers e-mailed the Richmond Council Licensing Sub-Committee at noon today (September 24) saying they are withdrawing but "it is hoped that they (the School) will re-submit their application in the near future. Their actions are done with the best of intentions and so that they can work in partnership with their neighbours – particularly The Friends of Richmond Park." The licensing hearing was due to take place tomorrow, the 25th.
The Friends has assembled a range of evidence to support their objection at the hearing, including:
- Letters of support (and rejection of the School's plans) from local bodies and residents
- The views of 33 Friends' members who e-mailed their views; this can be downloaded below
- A report on the likely impact of the events on wildlife, particularly on bats and birds; this can also be downloaded below
- A report on the September 6th Range Rover launch at the School, with a short (3 min) video of the event on the night. The report can be downloaded below and it has the links to the video. Alternatively, both the report and the video links can be seen by clicking on the Range Rover News item on our Homepage.
The Friends, with other groups, will now be discussing the plans for commercial events with the Royal Ballet School.
Post from September 3: The hearing to consider the Royal Ballet School's application will now be re-convened on September 25. At the previous hearing (see below) the Licensing Committee required the School to submit a new application because it did not properly publicise the previous one. Subsequently the School presented evidence that it had properly publicised the previous application and the Committee has now decided to re-convene the hearing rather than hold a new one.
This means that the Royal Ballet School's proposals will not have to be formally re-submitted with the notice period that requires and the opportunity for the many other people who are concerned about the proposals to lodge a formal objection to them. At the re-convened hearing the Friends will still be the only objector to the application and the only body allowed to speak.
The recovened hearing will be held on Tuesday 25 September at 7.30 pm at the Council Chamber in Richmond Council's offices at York House, Twickenham. It is open to the public and we encourage those concerned about the proposals to attend.
The Friends' position has not changed from that explained below. We have sought to meet the Royal Ballet School to discuss their proposals in detail but have not yet been able to do so.
Two months ago, the Royal Ballet School submitted to Richmond Council an application for a licence to hold events – fund-raising and commercial dinners, weddings and concerts – at their Lower School at White Lodge in Richmond Park. The aim is to raise funds to offset cuts in their government funding.
The School’s application was for live and recorded music (indoors and outdoors), dancing, entertainment and late night refreshments (indoors and outdoors) from 7am until 1am any day of the year. They did not put any restrictions on the number or size of events, or offer limits on the light and noise pollution the events would inevitably create. They also did not say how they would handle parking or access for cars during daytime or at night when the Park is closed.
We later learned that they plan between 12 and 30 events during the ten weeks of summer school holidays, which is up to 3 a week.
Although the Friends has long had a good working relationship with the School at a local level, they did not notify or consult with us or anyone else, including The Royal Parks agency who manage Richmond Park, before submitting the application. The Friends heard about it late in the day and asked to meet the School’s management to discuss it further, which they were not able to arrange before the deadline for objections.
So we submitted a formal objection to the licence application. If we had not objected, the application would have gone through without any restrictions.
The plans raise a lot of concerns. Richmond Park is a National Nature Reserve, a Site of Special Scientific Interest and a European Special Area of Conservation, and there is a question of principle. White Lodge is in a very sensitive area near the ‘quiet centre’ of the Park. The Lodge is located amongst prime ancient oak woodland with its attendant wildlife; the woodland is a favoured area for deer at night. There are four tawny and little owl territories, some bat roosts, a badger sett and the protected skylark breeding area close to the Lodge.
There is also the impact of traffic and noise and light pollution on local residents in the Sheen and Roehampton area. Sound and light travel a long way when there is open ground, as in the Park. In addition, the way the School is using its privileged position in the Park, with no contribution to the Park's upkeep, is a concern.
As a comparison, events at Pembroke Lodge (which is toward the edge of the Park) are licensed until midnight but almost always finish by 11.00, music is indoors, exterior lighting faces downwards and there is no lighting on the terrace or car park. It contributes £250,000 a year toward the upkeep of the Park.
The Friends’ objective is to protect Richmond Park’s peace and natural beauty, including its wildlife. The Royal Ballet School’s proposal clearly affects both the peace and wildlife. We think that the School should offer substantial restrictions on its events to protect both of these. When we put this to the School at a meeting after the deadline for objections, they said they would change the 1am time to midnight, but offered no other concessions. In response to our concerns, they said in an e-mail to us that we could rely on their "proven track record (that) demonstrates we are responsible custodians of our place in the park" (see the report on a large-scale event on September 6th as to why we are increasingly sceptical of this promise).
The hearing on the licence application was held on August 17. The Licensing Committee was not satisfied that the Royal Ballet School’s proposals had been properly publicised and required them to re-submit the application, this time with proper publicity.
We now want to meet the Ballet School to discuss specifc restrictions on the events. We will also be seeking meetings with local Park management and other local interest groups before the application is re-submitted. If the Ballet School is unwilling to offer satisfactory restrcitions, we will have no choice but to object to their new application.
In our view, the Ballet School plans pose the most significant threat for many years to the peace and wildlife of the Park.
Updated September 13