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With festival season underway, we look at the environmental impact of these large-scale music events and how they can be adapted to have a less damaging effect. Some festivals are already taking action to reduce their waste and carbon footprints and Jeremy Pike, barrister at Francis Taylor Building, and Richard Voke, partner and ex-regulator at Temple Bright, discuss the roles of local authorities, festival organisers and consumers in promoting environmental awareness and incorporating it into licensing decisions and onsite behaviour. Pike explains how existing legislation can best be utilised to protect the environment in large live music events, while Voke suggests how it can be improved to reflect changing consumer priorities.
Music festivals are increasingly considered a highlight of summer-time fun. In 2015, Powerful Thinking, a think-tank working towards smarter energy management practices in the live events industry, recorded that UK music festivals drew 3.17 million attendees, the year directly after the hottest year on record. And yet, UK festivals produce 23,500 tonnes of waste each year—only 32% of which is recycled—according to Powerful Thinking. Festivals are slowly turning to more environmentally-friendly practices, fuelled by middle-class, sustainability-conscious consumer choice, Richard Voke says. He explains that ‘festivals are catering for this demographic by providing more than just music—they provide an ever-increasing content of environmental and lifestyle activities to keep their attendees’ intellectual faculties occupied between the main acts’.
So, how can the law help festivals go green?
It seems that organisations and councils must ensure they are in a position to insist upon sustainable and ‘green’ festival practises on land within their jurisdiction, but ensuring this lies in the minutia of specific planning legislation.
Environmental conditions can also be applied when granting a licence to a festival. Under the Licencing Act 2003 (LA 2003), festival organisers who want to sell alcohol or provide live or recorded music to more than 500 people after 11:00pm must acquire a ‘premises licence’. Pike suggests that ‘food and drink waste is likely to be one of the main contributors to the waste caused by a festival’, therefore ‘a premises licence under LA 2003 can also contain conditions relating to the way entertainment is provided and alcohol is sold—in particular in relation to the drinking vessels (ie plastic cups) in which alcohol is served’.
Voke’s concerns raise the question of whether legislation is at heart reactive, rather than proactive regarding environmental protection. This is problematic because it waits until the damage has already been done. Voke emphasises the need for a shift in approach, saying that existing ‘regulation is being left behind in terms of effectiveness when compared with the increasing self-policing demands of the modern festival attendee’. Once again, it seems to be left up to the consumer to drive change.
But does current legislation provide enough protection?
As environmental impact becomes a priority within the large events industry—fed by recognition through consumer choice and awards such as Creative Green certification and the International A Greener Festival awards—a cultural shift could be on the horizon. Indeed Voke says ‘the 5* Green rating is an example of where things are going and, although festivals will primarily be judged on their artistic content, the new demographic of festival attendees will have an influence on how they impact the environment in the future’.
Jeremy Pike is a barrister at FTB chambers (www.ftbchambers.co.uk) specialising in planning and environmental law and local government law.Richard Voke is a partner at Temple Bright and ex-regulator now specialising in regulatory matters for organisations in dealing with regulatory bodies, such as the Environment Agency, HSE and Environmental Health.
Written by Samantha Gilbert.
This was originally published on LexisPSL Environment. For more content on hot topics and trends in environmental law, click here for a free trial.
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Samantha is a journalist at LexisNexis with over four year's experience in legal publishing. She has a blog, ‘Green Heart’, on which she promotes a plastic-free lifestyle and writes fiction in her spare time, which has been published. She specialises in feature-style and analytical news articles, with a particular interest in environmental law, arts and heritage, and women’s rights.
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