Fear for future of British Fireworks Championships in Plymouth after flats are approved
FEARS have been raised about the future of the British Fireworks Championships after a controversial planning application was approved.
Plans to knock down the Seawings restaurant at Mount Batten and build a four-storey block of glass-fronted flats were given the go-ahead by Plymouth City Council on Thursday.
The Event Services Association (TESA), championship organisers, said they had not been approached by the local authority regarding the development which will sit mere yards from Mount Batten pier, the launching stage of the two-day fireworks extravaganza.
But Plymouth City Council insists the development will not stop the event taking place.
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A risk assessment is being carried out by adjudicators at TESA to ascertain what the implications of the flats may be.
Some competitors fear the controversial development, which saw great opposition from local residents and pier users, could put Plymouth's future hosting of the championships at risk.
Andy Hubble, director of Star Fireworks who were crowned the winner of the championships in 2010, said: "Mount Batten breakwater is a great theatre for the fireworks and this development could potentially limit competitors on the size of fireworks.
"So we could go from having real world-class displays to something limited and scaled down.
"The Plymouth competition is the best in the UK because of the setting and because we are able to fire into the breakwater, but if the parameters are changed it will be sad. It might mean the organisers of the event look for somewhere else to host them because of the limitations."
And Jon Mellen, owner of Pendragon Fireworks and Pyrotechnics, had similar concerns.
The 2008 champion said: "This will without a doubt jeopardise the show and the organisers need to discuss this with the council. Safety is paramount and having a block of flats that close will have implications. It's a great location and perfect as it is. The implications of the building should be of great concern to the event."
Chris Pearce of Jubilee Fireworks Ltd, another former champion, said: "The most likely outcome is that the shows would be diminished in some way, which could affect the
Jim Winship, director of TESA, said: "We're going to have to look very closely at what we do and what we allow the fireworks companies to do. It will undoubtedly have an effect. Although the development is unlikely to stop the competition, it may cause us to change the way we run the event in future years.
"It's a pity they didn't consult with us as we could have provided them with detailed risk assessments and details of the implications for the Championships."
But a spokesperson for Plymouth City Council said the event was not a "valid consideration" under planning law.
They said: "It is not a valid consideration under planning law to turn down an application based on an event taking place in the area. There are strict criteria that must be considered when assessing planning applications and set bodies that must be consulted with. All the required consultees were contacted and legal processes followed.
"Had we declined this application based on the Firework Championships, we would have been open to challenge at appeal. It is highly unlikely we could have successfully defended such a decision.
"In previous years, the event has worked around the existing building (former restaurant), so we will need to have similar discussions with the organiser to discuss future logistics. The development will not stop the event taking place."
Mr Winship said the risk assessment would hopefully be completed within a week to give them a better idea of the impact.
After last week's meeting, Conservative councillor Patrick Nicholson said there should have been consultation with the championships' organisers. He said: "The council have just signed an agreement with organisers to host the championships for the next few years. If this development prohibits that competition in any way, then it could breach that contract. "I sit on the Overview and Scrutiny Management Board and we recognise that the tourist agenda is a huge benefit to the city. Yet a single decision of the council could jeopardise all that we've done in the past and the future."