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Witney Music Festival faces uncertain future after council row


ORGANISERS of Witney Music Festival have slammed the town council for ‘crushing any enthusiasm to make the town the best it can be’ after new restrictions were slapped on the event.
The festival’s chairman has attacked Witney Town Council over new rules, causing a feud which may jeopardise the future of the festival's main event on The Leys.
The council has said it put the measures in place as a result of new development near the recreation ground, in the interest of making it acceptable to all people in the town.
The council said that at the main event on Saturday, June 10, the funfair must finish at 10pm, live music on the stage must finish at 11pm and the whole site must be vacated by 12.30am.
Last year the festival ran until 11pm and the after party until 1am.
Festival chairman Eric Marshall, who previously expressed an ambition to model the event on the Edinburgh Fringe, said: “The festival team invest a huge amount of time, energy and their own money to put on this event for the enjoyment of the town and to inspire the next generation of musicians.
“To have everything we do become such a battle with the council is heart breaking.
"I personally have lost sleep and jeopardised the success of my own business due to the time and energy devoted to struggling with the council over something that should be a no-brainer when it comes to supporting Witney.
“I have considered resigning my role as chairman of the festival due to the stress it has caused, however, it’s important for me to call out wrongdoing if I see it otherwise nothing changes.”
Witney Music Festival, now in its 11th year, will run from May 26 until June 11, with headliners The Undertones due to take to the stage during the main event on June 10.
The organising team had arranged for the funfair to run until 11pm and had sold tickets to a VIP event on The Leys on the basis it would run until 2am.
Mr Marshall added: "The council is crushing any enthusiasm to make Witney the best it can be for the people without any justification."
The council has defended its decision to enforce new restrictions on the event.
Leader of the council Toby Morris said: “Over the course of the last couple of years development has taken place on land adjoining The Leys, increasing the number of private residences close by which includes a retirement home.
"As such the town council has a duty to ensure that The Leys and events on The Leys are accessible and acceptable to all and do not cause a nuisance to those who live nearby.
"It also has a duty to manage and maintain the ground in order that it remains in good condition and fit for purpose.
"Late additions to the event plan were not discussed ahead of their inclusion and no discussion held about events that are planned to finish much later than the town council would normally give permission for."

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