July 10, 2017

A message from the Kings Heath Board of Directors of Kings Heath BID limited.

On Friday, our town centre manager informed all BID levy payers of the Board of Directors decision to move the location of the annual Kings Heath Street Festival from York Road, Heathfield Road and Silver Street, to The Parade car park on the High Street.

This was a difficult decision for the Board, since they knew how popular the event was on York Road. Quite understandably, there has been a lot of unhappiness on social media by people who would rather it was still happening on York Road.

We hope you will give us the opportunity to give more details on why the Board reached this decision.

At the Kings Heath BID board meeting on 6th June 2017 it was decided that the annual Kings Heath Street Festival would take place on Sunday 10th September in a similar format as previous years. The event will remain free to the public and the overall cost of the event would be subsidised by the Kings Heath BID with all efforts being made to ensure all BID businesses are offered a way to participate in the activity.

Since this decision, Birmingham City Council have announced that due to recent terrorist incidents in the UK, all events that take place on council land must conform to a set of new anti-terror safety guidelines and all event proposals must be presented at a Safety Advisory Group Meeting (SAG). SAG meetings are a government requested group that is run by all local authorities. It consists of local authority officers and representatives from each of the emergency services. The objective of the group is to ensure that all events are run safely and follow legal guidelines. Small to medium sized events and events on private land may also need to present their event proposals at a SAG meeting if deemed necessary. All BID managers have also been invited to attend a meeting with the Head of Events at Birmingham City Council later on this month to discuss the new event safety guidelines.

Since the announcement, in order to prepare for the SAG meeting, we have sought expert advice from the following parties: Birmingham City Council Events Team; West Midlands Fire Service; West Midlands Police; Representative from Traffix (Temporary Traffic and Event Management company); Birmingham City Council Licensing & Planning team; our private security company and local businesses. This has included site walks, a number of revised site plans for York Road/Heathfield Road and countless meetings to discuss our options.

The outcome of these meetings suggest that it is very unlikely an event of this magnitude would be able to meet the new event safety guidelines on York Road, Heathfield Road and Silver Street. Some of the new measures include installing High Impact Vehicles or concrete barriers at all road entry access points; security fencing surrounding the entire activity space whilst still allowing right of way access to businesses/residents; bag searches at all entry points and controlled pedestrian access points. These alone would mean that any activity on York Road would have to take place inside a ‘caged event space’ on the carriageway only. The pavements would have to remain outside of the security fencing to allow right of way to residents and business owners. This was deemed impractical and unsafe for an event of this size.

Chris O’Neil, chair of the Kings Heath Board said, “Safety is our main concern. In preparation for the SAG meeting we have consulted with as many experts as possible to get the most up-to-date information regarding event safety and anti-terror guidelines. In a meeting with the West Midlands Fire Service last month, that I personally attended, a senior representative stated that York Road would require a 4-metre wide unobstructed pathway down the entire length of the road to permit emergency vehicle access. This, in combination with all of the other anti-terror measures required would just not be possible with the stage, street food, big wheel etc. An event on any public highway involves a significant amount of risk, our main priority is to minimise the risk to participants and that’s all that we’ve ever wanted to do.”

Chris further added, “We understand that the decision to move the event has proved unpopular with some members of the public, however our number one priority is public safety. We also want to ensure the event remains a free and fun family day out for the community. We are taking all feedback on board and will be able to provide updates on the future of the event as soon as we know more.”