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Council ‘to produce report over controversial Alice in Winterland event in Southwark Park’

The council is to produce a report about lessons learned from the running of the controversial Alice in Winterland event taking place in Southwark Park since November 21.

A deputation of residents told full council assembly on November 28 they felt they had been “treated terribly” over a lack of consultation surrounding the private event.

Cllr Rebecca Lury, Cabinet Member for Culture, Leisure, Equalities and Communities, said she apologised for mistakes in the consultation, conducted through tenants’ and residents’ associations when several estates near to the park do not have functioning TRA groups.

Resident Pete Suthers, who lives on Slippers Place, told the Assembly: “I can see into the event from my bedroom window and hear what’s going on. What I’m concerned about is the decision making process.

“It appears to have been an officer decision to sell a good chunk of Southwark Park for three months of the year, it doesn’t appear to have come to us or any residents’ group.

“That park is my garden. I don’t have one, I live on the eighth floor of a tower block. It’s been taken away and handed over to commercial services.

“We feel we’ve been treated terribly by the council over this issue.”

Local resident Rosie Beattie started a petition against the event and led a deputation of residents to speak about it at a full council meeting

The commercial winter lantern festival uses about 40 per cent of Southwark Park and is the first time a large scale event has been held in the park for a substantial period of time.

Cllr Lury said: “In an ideal world we wouldn’t have private events in [Southwark] park. But we want to deliver free events like the fireworks and the Bermondsey carnival, and so we have to look at innovative ways to bring money into the borough.

“One of the things we have agreed is that we’re going to draw up a specification for which events are suitable for our parks.

“We are also going to do a long report looking back at the implications of those events, which we will do for Alice in Winterland.

“If it turns out that those events are not appropriate for our open spaces, we won’t be looking to hold those events again in the future.”

Cllr Anood al-Samerai, leader of the opposition Lib Dems, thanked the residents for engaging with the council’s events team despite “serious errors with the process and the principle of using that land.”

Cllr Al-Samerai added she was concerned at the council’s justification of public benefits for local residents from the event, despite discounts offered by the event organisers.

The organisers have previously told the News that they had double security patrols around the park and made changes to their timings in order to allay residents’ noise and anti-social concerns.

“The key thing here is this is a family-friendly event: people come and see the lanterns, they have a bite to eat and then they leave,” event organiser Marcus van der Gaag told the News last month.

The Winterland lantern event runs in Southwark Park until January 6.

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