EARLY arrivals at a Somerset music festival will be able to enjoy some entertainment after a licence was granted for the event.

Organisers of FarmFest have been granted a licence for their early arrivals event the day before this year’s festival – despite police concerns about public safety.

FarmFest takes place at Gilcombe Farm in Bruton on July 30 and 31, with organisers wishing to lay on additional entertainment for festival-goers who arrive the day before to get settled in.

Avon and Somerset Constabulary objected to this additional event, arguing the organisers had not provided sufficient information to make it safe for attendees and the wider public.

However, South Somerset District Council has ruled the event can go ahead after receiving reassurance about how it would be policed and how many people would attend.

The organisers applied for a temporary events notice (TEN) to allow them to serve alcohol and provide entertainment for up to 499 revellers arriving on the Thursday evening before the festival (July 29).

However, George Portch – a third-generation farmer at Gilcombe Farm – told a virtual meeting of the council’s licensing sub-committee on April 26 that the actual numbers would be much lower.

He said: “We lean heavily on festivals to keep our families and everyone else here employed. We have a good local reputation.

“We are aware that the previous owners of FarmFest only had two stages on their licence rather than seven, and there have been noise concerns.

“However, we feel we’ve got a much higher level of professionalism, and we want to do everything we can to make this right.

“This is not an extra day on the music festival – it’s just a bar and some background music. Everything that happens on Thursday night won’t be there on the Friday morning.

“Opening early is going to help with Covid and we’ll have less congestion on the roads. It will be a trickle of people, not a flood.”

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Andrew Manhire, the police’s liquor licensing officer, said that the licence for the entire festival should be changed to take account of the extra day, rather than applying for separate temporary permission.

He said: “The licence for the main festival states each event will last no longer than three days, with no more than one event per calendar year.

“Clearly the correct procedure would be for a premises licence variation to be submitted, so that it can be dealt with as one event.”

However, Councillor Kevin Messenger – whose Cary ward borders Bruton – said the additional day would enable festival-goers to arrive safely with appropriate coronavirus precautions being observed.

He said: “As I understand it, it’s to allow the ease of people coming for a longer period of time – which is quite sensible to my way of thinking, as opposed to them all trying to get into the premises in one go.

“This is in difficult times, and we don’t know where we’re going to be in July at the moment.”

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Nicola King, the police’s area licensing officer, said the police could only provide “limited staff” on Thursday for the event, though there would be a “double shift” on the Friday and Saturday with additional staff being sourced from Wincanton to deal with emergencies.

After a short deliberation in confidential session, the sub-committee voted to approve the licence – but warned that any future TENs should be submitted “in very good time” to avoid a rushed decision regarding future festivals.