Planning on hosting a festival? Here's what you need to know

Allowing a festival to be held on your land may be a useful source of income, but what are the potential drawbacks?

1. I am giving the festival organisers permission to use my land, what specific rights should I grant?

A landowner would usually give a festival organiser permission to use land through a licence to occupy. This permits temporary use of land, for a defined period and purpose and on other specific licence terms.

Likely provisions would include use, hours, access, parking, insurance, health and safety and clean-up of the land after the festival ends. It should also detail licence fees payable to the landowner and include provisions on any breach of licence terms.

2. What are my legal responsibilities towards visitors? Doesn’t the licence make this all the organisers’ responsibility?

Although a landowner permits another party use of its land, this does not necessarily absolve the landowner from responsibility for what happens on the land during the licence period.

Under “Occupiers’ Liability” law a person who occupies land can be held liable for injury or harm that occurs to another person when on that land.  An occupier is a party who is in control of the land and owes a duty of care towards visitors to ensure that they are reasonably safe in using the land for the purpose for which they have permission to be there. Whilst a landowner may have granted rights to festival organisers to temporarily occupy and “control” the land, the landowner could still be regarded as having a degree of control and a duty of care to ensure that visitors are kept safe and held to account if festival-goers suffer any harm or injury.

More than one party may be regarded as the occupier of land and it is possible that both landowner and festival organiser could be liable.  For this reason any licence should be stringent in defining obligations around site responsibility and health and safety aspects.  The licence should ensure festival organisers obtain satisfactory insurance to cover all and any possible claims and ensure appropriate indemnities are given for any claims brought against the landowner.

3. How do I deal with claims like pollution nuisance or damage? Who does liability lie with?

You could also find yourself liable for acts of nuisance, regardless of the fact that these emanate from the actions of attendees. You should ensure that the licence provides that you have recourse against the festival organisers in the event of any claims – and that they have adequate funds or insurance to meet claims passed on to them. 

4. Might I end up with squatters or suffer long term damage to my land?
To cover this possibility, the licence should provide that you may recover costs arising from having to remove third parties from your land or for damage caused. 

5. Can my neighbours object and stop the festival?

You should check before entering into agreements with organisers that there are no covenants restricting use of your land that neighbours could potentially enforce by obtaining an injunction to stop the festival. You could face claims in private nuisance if the festival results in damage or loss of enjoyment of neighbouring land.

Neighbours have the right to object and petition the local council to prevent the festival going ahead or to limit its scope. Landowners and festival organisers should encourage open dialogue with the local community and work to minimise the impact of disruption in advance of the event.

By Kiran Notay, Associate
First published in Farmers Guardian, October 2016

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