The organiser of Congleton Heritage and Antiques Festival has reacted with “shock” after being told by the Chronicle that Cheshire East Council has not given him permission to use the land where the opening day event will be held on Saturday – despite completing a risk assessment with council staff.
Nino Manci said he had been liaising since the beginning of August with the authority, which owns the grassed area by Market Square. The land has been fenced off since the former council offices were demolished some years ago, and event organisers thus far had been prohibited from using it.
Saturday’s festival, to include live entertainment and stalls, is to be the first event held there and it was hoped the location could become “Congleton’s town square,” where more events could be staged in future.
But this week the Chronicle received a statement from Cheshire East saying it was unaware of a request to use the land – and that permission had not been given.
A council spokesperson said: “The council is not aware of any official request by Congleton Heritage Festival to make use of this piece of land for its event, and as such no permission has been granted. The land is not currently available for use for public events.”
In response Mr Manci said: “I liaised with Cheshire East, so this has come as a complete shock. As far as we are aware we are allowed to use the land.
“I had been talking with Cheshire East’s property services department since the beginning of August. We had done a risk assessment and a methodology assessment for the festival.
“I think there must have been a breakdown of communication within the council somewhere.”
In fact, before Mr Manci was aware of the statement issued by Cheshire East, he had said:
“We are very grateful that Cheshire East Council has given us permission to use the space for a community event. Maybe this will signpost it for future events and what could be used as Congleton’s town square.”
Mr Manci pointed out that the festival would not be making money for a “private concern” and that it would be a community event.
He added that no-one from Cheshire East had contacted him since the authority issued the statement to the Chronicle.
He described the land being used for the festival, overlooked by the town’s police station, as an “asset for Congleton”.
“It shouts out that we’ve got a town square,” he said. “We do not have anywhere else like that.”
Congleton Town Council was also of the view that the festival had been given the go-ahead to use the land.
A town hall spokesperson said: “In the past, usage of the space has not been allowed by Cheshire East Council, but on this occasion, because it’s a one-off event, permission has been granted, which could be because it is for a temporary event rather than a permanent fixture.”
At Saturday’s festival starting at 10am, visitors can look forward to a full day of family entertainment with Silk FM broadcasting live. Attractions will include a performance by Rode Hall silver band, a Punch and Judy show, and a variety of stalls.
But the festival curtain-raiser is just the start of two-weeks of walks, talks and heritage events. Auctioneer and television personality Adam Partridge will be holding a valuation evening, while heritage open days will welcome visitors to historic buildings such as Biddulph Old Hall and Congleton Bath House and Physic Garden.