Village uproar over festival

Councillor Keith Sowden.
Councillor Keith Sowden.

Tension is growing ahead of a religious festival which could see 2,500 members of the travelling community and 700 vehicles descend on Overton.

Around 100 people crammed into a village meeting about the planned Light and Life Festival this July – with much of the anger directed at Lancaster City Council.

Councillor Keith Sowden, who represents Overton on the city council, said villagers feel the council has “washed its hands of them”.

This is because the festival will be held on private land and the city council says it has “no role to play”.

But residents are worried thousands of people and hundreds of vehicles will bring congestion and nuisance to the peaceful village.

An Overton resident, who wished to remain anonymous, said: “Villagers are scared and worried and it’s made much much worse by the lack of information given.

“I must admit to being disappointed with the response from Lancaster City Council.

“One of the major issues will be the volume of traffic. To put in context, if one towed caravan joined Morecambe Road at the Asda roundabout per minute it would take up to 11 hours for 700. The traffic along that area is already a nightmare.”

Coun Sowden said: “Where are they going to put all these people? There are no parking places.

“Everyone is terrified about it. I’m locking my house and going abroad. Life will be impossible during that week.”

Danny Maddox, chairman of Overton Parish Council, said: “We are not saying anything about who is coming to the festival – the vast majority realise that is a religious festival. We can’t do anything to stop it so we’re trying to manage it. The police and Lancashire County Council have been really positive on our behalf.”

The event is expected to take place on privately-owned fields between Kevin Grove and Overton Saint Helen’s CE Primary School.

The four-day Light and Life Gypsy Church festival centres on a large big-top tent featuring bible classes, prayer meetings and gospel sessions. Last year’s event was held at Hewish, Somerset, when fields were taken over by 700 caravans and around 3,000 travellers and police dealt with calls about antisocial behaviour, people fouling and litter being tossed into hedgerows.

Mark Cullinan, chief executive of Lancaster City Council, said: “With the information the council has, there are no planning or licensing issues, so as things stand, the council does not currently have a role to play. We are aware that local people are in direct contact with the county council and police.”