Red tape threat to harvest homes
TRADITIONAL Somerset events which have entertained generations could be under threat because new licensing laws have left organisers bogged down in bureaucracy and out of pocket
TRADITIONAL Somerset events which have entertained generations could be under threat because new licensing laws have left organisers bogged down in bureaucracy and out of pocket.Organisers of harvest homes have had to apply for event licences for the first time since the Licensing Act 2003 came into force last November.The new rules mean the fields where the events are held have to be licensed as venues.Organisers of the East Brent, Wedmore and Mark festivals say the paperwork is ridiculous and the mandatory course needed to gain a licence is expensive.Licensing officers ordered doormen to be placed on the Wedmore Harvest Home site, costing organisers £700. The committee has had to up its prices from £8 to £10 to cope with the costs.Wedmore Harvest Home secretary Lee Gadd said: "There's never been any trouble before and we don't know why we have to hire bouncers."All this bureaucracy could stop people holding harvest homes and we've had to put up our prices because of the new laws."Sedgemoor District Council is responsible for allocating licences in the area after following the new Government rules.The harvest home committee in Mark had to fill out a complicated 20-page booklet and then a further eight-page booklet before it was granted a licence in June. The committee had to evaluate the risk of a terrorist attack on its field and answer other 'absurd' questions.Edwin Fisher, who has been a secretary of Mark Harvest Home for 40 years, said: "When I looked through the questions they were asking, I couldn't believe it."They asked if our event could be affected by terrorism. If we were organising the Glastonbury festival I could understand it, but not a harvest home. They asked how we are going to handle the cash, but that's our own affair."They wanted to know what we would do if the weather is bad. How are you supposed to answer that? I just said 'if it's hot we'll wear a hat, and if it rains we'll get wet'."All they seem to want to do is to put the responsibility back on us so if anything goes wrong, they will come down on us like a tonne of bricks."I'm offended by the questions. They are making out we are idiots. The old entertainment licence we had to get was relatively simple."We've worked hard to keep the harvest home going but it makes you feel like the authorities don't want you to do these things. "This sort of thing puts people off getting involved with organising harvest homes."East Brent Harvest Home committee had to send a member on a day-long course at Weston College, costing £160, to gain a licence.Secretary Rita Thomas said: "It's been a real hassle this year as we start planning in March and didn't think the paperwork would take this long."It's legislation gone mad as we need to sort out police checks and fill out dozens of pages of forms."We've never had any complaints before and everyone in the two villages joined in so we didn't understand why we had to put in a public notice and wait for objections.