Families have hit out at plans to serve alcohol at a park in Stafford.
Freedom Leisure has submitted a request for a premises licence at Rowley Park Sports Stadium, which would allow alcohol to be served there during special events.
More than 40 people have objected to the move, saying it would send the wrong message out to children and could lead to rowdy behaviour.
The trust, which now runs leisure and cultural services on behalf of Stafford Borough Council, has applied for a licence to cover activities including film screenings and the staging of live music, plays and dance performances.
Events are set to include the annual Party in the Park which is due to take place on Sunday (7 July), and has moved from the town centre’s Victoria Park.
On Friday – just two days before Party in the Park – Stafford Borough Council’s licensing sub-committee is due to decide whether or not to grant Freedom Leisure the premises licence.
Several residents living near the stadium have sent in objections to the council, raising concerns about noise, disorder, car parking and litter. They also spoke of previous incidents of antisocial behaviour in the park at night after the gates have shut.
One St John’s Road resident said: “The park is a peaceful green space which we, and many others living around it, use on a daily basis.
“We believe booze has no place in a setting used by many children and young people. Noise levels would inevitably increase, along with the likelihood of damage to residents and increase in litter around the Rowley Park and Highfields areas.”
A fellow St John’s Road resident said: “I am very disturbed about the use of alcohol being introduced and all the troubles which would follow. It would affect the children’s usage as parents would stop them coming to the park because their total safety would be at risk. With alcohol inevitably some drugs would also be introduced – it has happened before as the residents can vouch for in the past.
“The public would be restricted in their use of the park when events were organised and once started who knows how many would creep in, especially if they became a good money making business. It would destroy the park.
“Family and community events do not need alcohol, they should (be) enjoyable safe affairs and alcohol is unnecessary. Alcohol would bring the undesirable element into the park rather than go into town or elsewhere.”
Another resident said: “I am not against the Party in the Park being held in Rowley Stadium. I understand that the planned event will not be serving alcohol.
“My garden backs onto the lower football pitches and my house is within three houses of the pedestrian access to the park from Lawn Road. The thought of live music, performances and films, with the noise so close to domestic properties with young children, going on into the late night is a nuisance.
“Added to this the sale of alcohol and I believe that all the residents that live on the boundary to Rowley Park Stadium would be unfairly inconvenienced. I am aware of the ongoing issue with the consumption of alcohol in the park.
“I am – and I believe so are the majority of the local residents – in favour of Rowley Park Stadium being an alcohol-free zone as Victoria Park is. The fact that this licence is legitimising the consumption of alcohol in a sports stadium in my opinion shows a total lack of responsibility and is a backwards step.”
There are also concerns for patients at the nearby Rowley Hall Hospital and the operations manager is among those who have submitted objections to the council.
Their letter stated: “I am concerned that if the park is granted use for entertainment with the sale of alcohol this could increase the noise levels at the hospital. We have 13 rooms where patients stay with us for overnight care following surgery. As a listed building the hospital has a range of large single glazed windows which do not give a great deal of protection from noise pollution.
“I would like to know how the boundary between Rowley Park and Rowley Hall Hospital will be further secured to ensure people do not use the grounds as a shortcut to other areas. We regularly see people cutting through the perimeter hedges of the hospital from the park and I am concerned this could increase.”
Following a meeting with residents held last month Freedom Leisure has made changes to its proposals however.
These include reducing the number of events held in a year from six to four – all of which would take place between May and September. The sale of alcohol would be restricted to hours between 12pm and 9pm.
An email to residents said: “We strongly believe that a premises licence will give us more control over the licensable activities that may take part in the park on these special days. The sale of alcohol will only be a part of the four events and served from temporary/mobile pop up licensed traders’ stalls.
“The only event we have planned for 2019 involving licensable activities is our well-established Stafford Festival Party in the Park Family Fun event. This event is scheduled to take place on Sunday, 7 July and opens at 12pm and closes at 5pm.
“The licensable activities for Party in the Park will include the playing of recorded and live music, performances of dance and street theatre entertainers.”