Coronavirus: Call for law change after vegan festival blocked

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Image caption, Amber Valley Borough Council struggled to object to the Vegan Camp Out

A council has called for Covid-19 to be taken into account in licensing after struggling to object to a festival expected to attract 1,000 people.

More than 50 objections to the Vegan Camp Out festival were lodged with Amber Valley Borough Council, many opposing the event due to the risk of Covid-19.

But these could not be taken into consideration because coronavirus does not fall within "licensing objectives".

The festival was eventually cancelled.

Objections to the festival - which was scheduled to take place in September in Riddings Wood Caravan and Camping Park - came from residents and the county's director of public health.

The borough council had been due to discuss the matter but the application was withdrawn shortly before.

Derbyshire County Council then used emergency powers to block from the festival from taking place, a move backed by Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

Image caption, The festival was due to be held at Riddings Wood Caravan and Camping Park

Head of regulatory services at Amber Valley Borough Council, Ben Adams, told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: "Our legal advice was that the Licensing Act 2003 is unable to deal with such representations as Covid-19 does not fall within any of the four licensing objectives; so, all objectors were advised accordingly that their representations could not be considered."

He said the lack of clarity over Covid-19 laws in licensing events caused "a great deal of concern", and has called on Home Secretary Priti Patel to write public health regulations into licensing laws.

He said: "This could perhaps be a temporary change as we navigate our way through the current pandemic, or possibly become a permanent change to give public health authorities more input into the licensing regime generally."

Organisers had already sold the vast majority of the 1,000 tickets available.

At the time councillor Paul Smith said: "Times have changed and public health and Covid need to be taken into account."

A Home Office spokesperson said: "Rather than legislating to amend the Licensing Act 2003, the government considers it more effective to strengthen enforcement of the Health Protection (Coronavirus) Regulations and COVID-secure guidance.

"Last month, the government acted to make the guidelines legal obligations for sectors including retail, leisure and tourism - meaning businesses will be fined and could be closed if they breach the rules."

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