Glastonbury Festival: Pyramid Stage could become permanent fixture of Somerset countryside
By Daniel Mumby - Local Democracy Reporter
26th Jan 2023 | Local News
The world-famous Pyramid Stage from the Glastonbury Festival could become a permanent fixture in the Somerset countryside if new plans are approved
Since 2010, Glastonbury Festival Events Ltd. (GFEL) has had planning permission to hold the festival and other events at Worthy Farm on the basis of a rolling temporary planning permission – which is due to expire in 2024.
Mendip District Council advised GFEL back in 2021 that a further extension to this temporary permission would not be allowed, since it was "contrary to best planning practice" as laid out by central government.
GFEL has applied for the festival and associated events to have permanent planning permission, which would "provide more certainty and additional flexibility" in the coming years.
What is being proposed?
The application, if approved, would allow the following activities to take place on the festival site in perpetuity:
- The hosting of the Glastonbury Festival permanently once a year
- The hosting of the annual Pilton Party
- Camping events which can take place during festival fallow years
- Agricultural use of the site outside of the festival period
The permission would also allow the "permanent regularisation" of the Pyramid Stage, along with a building currently used for storage and recycling, and the allocation of land to accommodate the temporary festival workforce.
It should be noted that the festival is also subject to its official licence – so even if planning permission were granted, it would still need to comply with the agreed capacity, noise limits and so forth to continue.
A spokesman for Planning Sphere (representing GFEL) said: "The grant of planning permission will provide certainty and secure the future of the largest and most iconic music and performing arts festival in Europe.
"Taking into account the planning history and wider planning balance considerations, including the significant cultural and economic benefits as set out and the proposed biodiversity enhancement package, there is an overwhelming planning case that weighs in favour of the application proposal."
How have local residents reacted?
The reaction of local residents has been mixed, to say the least.
Geoff Twining said the permission would result in "the permanent change of use from a working farm to a festival and camping site", which would "inevitably increase the attending numbers".
Anthony and Hilary Austin concurred: "If the site becomes a permanent site, we are concerned that additional events could beheld on the site without seeking any additional planning.
"The festival creates its own problems due to the lack of accessibility from main roads, having only one entrance off the A361, and we would be concerned should the number of events be increased."
Verona Fraser-Mackenzie said the plans would have "long-lasting and deep significance" to Pilton and would "almost certainly impair people's right to a reasonable enjoyment of their properties outside of festival years".
She added; "This issue does not appear to have been given any real consideration, given the track record of noise disturbance from the site during both the festival and the period where the infrastructure is assembled and taken down.
"This application makes Worthy Farm an attractive asset to sell as a going concern for Mr Eavis' descendants.
"There are no guarantees or incentives with a license in perpetuity for the future owners of the site to ensure that the disruption to their neighbours' lives and businesses is properly mitigated as these events evolve over time."
Jennifer Warmington said she supported the festival in general but was concerned about the noise levels which the events held on the site would generate in the years to come.
She said: "I accept that the festival is all part of living in Pilton and I don't object to it in general. However, I do have concerns regarding the noise levels from the overnight dance tents, which carry on until 6am.
"Working residents and those not attending the festival are still entitled to a reasonable amount of sleep."
Simon Lodge, by contrast, said the plans "make complete sense", arguing GFEL had "proven that they listen to the concerns of the villagers, and year on year improve the running of the events to ensure minimal disruption".
He elaborated: "These events bring great employment and benefit to the local community, being the major fundraiser for many schools and clubs.
"It is also really good for tourism and raising awareness of how beautiful the county is, again bringing in much-needed money and support to local businesses and organisations.
"I feel really blessed living in Pilton, benefiting in all the facilities the festival has enabled to happen."
Jo Roberts-Wray, who has lived in the village for 20 years, agreed: "We are truly blessed to live in this village and have the opportunities these events give us, so long may they continue."
Joseph Marcangelo-Lyons added: "To me it seems to make perfect sense to establish the festival on a more permanent footing, and the provision of permanent infrastructure to support this is a logical step that will reduce the need for vehicle movements etc. in the build-up to the event.
"The festival is a huge asset to the region, and the nation as a whole, both commercially and culturally, and I am proud to share a village with it. Long may it prosper."
What happens next?
Councillor Nigel Hewitt-Cooper, whose Croscombe and Pilton ward includes the festival site, has requested that the council's planning board take a final decision rather than through the delegated powers of its planning officers.
If no decision is made on the plans by March 31, any decision will fall to the new unitary Somerset Council instead.