Park Strife – campaigners angry over Split Festival plans for Mowbray Park

CONCERNS RAISED: The Friends of Mowbray Park.
CONCERNS RAISED: The Friends of Mowbray Park.
Have your say

CAMPAIGNERS are calling for the plug to be pulled on a city music festival over fears it would damage their park.

The Split Festival has previously been held at Ashbrooke Sports Club, but this year is being moved to Mowbray Park.

However, a group set up to look after the park have hit out and are calling on organisers to move the event, which will see acts including Dizzee Rascal and Maximo Park, play over the weekend of August 9 and 10.

Elsie Ronald, secretary of Friends of Mowbray Park, said: “We are absolutely astounded because there’s no room for it, the park will be damaged.

“We are one of three Britain in Bloom finalists and this is not going to do it any good. I can’t imagine thousands of people going and the trees and flower beds not being damaged.

“A small formal ornamental park should not be used in this way.

“Herrington Country Park was built as an events venue, but Mowbray has been intended for free recreation for all since it was opened in 1857 and extended in 1866.”

The Friends of Mowbray Park was formed in 2000 to help preserve it, after its restoration and its legacy as a recreation space for all.

Split organisers said the plan was to hold the festival at the park this summer, but then move it into the city centre.

They are working with Sunderland City Council to make sure Mowbray Park will be protected.

The ground will be covered with plastic. Statues and flower beds will be cordoned off.

A programme has been agreed to repair any damage quickly, with only the lower park to be used for the event, which is expected to attract 4,000 people per day.

Rob Deverson, one of the event directors, said: “In the four years we held it at Ashbrooke, the police said there’s never been trouble inside the ground, and over a four-year period, when we’ve had 20,000 people in over two days, there’s never been an antisocial behaviour issue.

“Our crowd is not the sort that want to rip up trees and plants. They might put a plastic cup on the ground if they can’t find a bin, but we are working with a company who have cleaned up some of the biggest festivals in the UK.”

He added the area has several car parks, but most will head to the festival by public transport and eight per cent of ticket holders from outside the area, who are likely to have booked accommodation within walking distance.

A spokesman for the festival added: “We understand how privileged we are to be given the opportunity to use an area that is so well thought of by local people.

“We think the park is beautiful, and by holding the Split Festival, which is a very cultural affair, there, more people will come to Mowbray Park and enjoy and experience the surroundings.

“In fact, most of the Split Team have fond memories of the park when they were growing up, as has most of the population of Sunderland.”

A spokesman for Sunderland City Council, added: “This decision-making process is on-going and it would be inappropriate to comment any further.”