Northern Ireland

Boucher Road Playing Fields to remain an entertainment venue despite complaints

 The Ed Sheeran Concert was at Boucher Road Playing Fields. Picture Mal McCann.
 The Ed Sheeran Concert was at Boucher Road Playing Fields. Picture Mal McCann.

Boucher Road Playing Fields are to remain a venue for music gigs and other events, despite complaints from local residents and an objection to its licence renewal.

At Belfast City Council’s Licensing Committee, elected representatives voted to renew a 14 day Occasional Outdoor Entertainments Licence at the playing fields.

The police and Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service were consulted and confirmed that they had no objection to the renewal application.

Boucher Road Playing Fields, which is public land owned by the council, has been used to provide large outdoor concerts for 10 years, and currently holds both a 14 Day Occasional Outdoor Entertainments Licence and a 14 Day Marquee Entertainments Licence. 

The council licensing report on the renewal application had a document listing 26 complaints and enquiries, largely regarding noise, made during the AVA festival at the Playing Fields last September. They were from a range of addresses across Belfast.

The report also referred to one objection made towards the renewal of the licence, made last September, outside the statutory period for making objections to the renewal. Despite the lateness of the objection, councillors agreed to consider the objection.

The report states: “The nature of the objection relates to intolerable noise disturbance caused by outdoor concerts in Boucher Road Playing Fields, which is harming the objector’s quiet enjoyment of their property and their health.”

It added: “This objection was as a result of noise nuisance arising from a number of concerts in September 2021. Following a noise complaint to the council an officer from Building Control contacted the objector by telephone on September 25. The objector explained that when concerts take place in Boucher Road Playing fields he is disturbed by loud music.

“Further to the objection both parties were invited to attend a liaison meeting to discuss the issues and ascertain if any measures could be implemented to alleviate the objector’s concerns. The director of the City and Neighbourhood Services Department agreed to attend but the objector advised that he did not wish to attend the meeting.”

The council says its Night Time Noise Team reacted to the noise complaints and “the externally monitored sound levels were within the levels set within  the Control of Noise from Outdoor Events guidelines.”

It added: “The council Noise Team has not reported any breaches of noise legislation with regards to noise from any of the large events at the site.”

It said: “Any learning from events and recommendations for improvements will be communicated to future event organisers and mitigations will be built into event planning for future event delivery.

“The licence agreement between the council and the event promoter, prepared by the city solicitor, includes a number of clauses to ensure the least disruption as possible to residents living and businesses operating in the surrounding area, and to ensure public safety.

“These include matters relating to: engagement with residents and local businesses, event planning/stewarding, and traffic management.”

Sinn Féin Councillor for Balmoral Geraldine McAteer proposed the entertainment licence at Boucher to be renewed, and received unanimous backing from the committee.

She said: “Concerts such as Ed Sheeran’s are world class – he is a global name. They have a great social and economic impact on the city, and they help develop business.”

The council report states in regards to noise: “The promoter of large outdoor music events must submit a Noise Management Plan which is provided to the Environmental Protection Unit for evaluation.

“Council officers work with the promoter in order to assess the noise that may be generated from the event and to minimise the potential for noise disturbance.

“Members should also recognise that noise generated by large scale outdoor concerts is likely to lead to some level of disturbance for local residents.

“Even if guideline levels are met there is no guarantee that complaints will not be received. Conversely, if a recommended level is exceeded this may not necessarily lead to complaints as people may be prepared to tolerate the event because it will only last for a limited period of time.”