Bring McFly and The Saturdays to Newtonabby, Northern Ireland sign now

Published Date: 01 April 2009
By Susan Mathai
NEWTOWNABBEY Council has pulled the plug on plans to stage a summer pop concert featuring chart-topping acts The Saturdays and McFly at Hazelbank Park.
The Times exclusively revealed last week that the Council was set to discuss plans for the gig at its Monday night meeting.
However, after debating the subject this week, Council members were of the opinion that it would not be prudent to proceed with the event at this juncture.
The concert proposal, which it was thought would attract around 10,000 people to Hazelbank Park on August 15, was made by local promoter Mervyn Boyd, who wished to use the council's land at the local beauty spot.
The plans were previously discussed at a recent meeting of the Council's Development Committee, where they received a mixed reaction.
DUP councillors Paula Bradley and Nigel Hamilton were both of the opinion that an event like this was "a wonderful idea", and one that would help "bring people to the area".
Others like councillors Fraser Agnew and Billy Webb however, voiced concerns at that stage about the impact the event would have on residents in the locality.
At Monday night's meeting, Councillor Tom Campbell pointed out that the promoter had made it clear that he was not in position to pay a non-refundable bond towards staging of the event, and so Mr Campbell believed the proposal was "unworkable, if the finance was not in place".
Mr Campbell asked Council chief executive, Mr Norman Dunn, if there would be implications for the Council and indeed for members themselves if they progressed the plans without a bond, and was informed such a move would not be recommended.
Councillors Robert Hill and Jackie Mann were keen to know the views of the police and the Coastguard on such a major proposal. Councillor Mann was also worried about the damage that might be done to Hazelbank Park during the staging of the concert. He stated that any risk to park facilities would be unfortunate, after the large sums of money invested in improving it for this borough's residents in the recent past.
The issue of policing the event was again raised by Councillor Janet Crilly who said she was worried that "a few stewards" might comprise the extent of the security in place to patrol large crowds of people present on the evening in question, many of whom would be consuming alcohol.
Councillor Jim Bingham was concerned about sanctioning the sale of alcohol for the event in a council park, which is normally an alcohol-free zone.
And Councillor Barbara Gilliland pointed out that there was already another event taking place in the Bawnmore area of Newtownabbey on August 15, and she was unsure if the Shore Road would be capable of handling the increased traffic flow for both gatherings.
Councilor Billy Webb said he had "grave concerns" about such a large-scale event taking place close to residential areas.
Mr Webb proposed that no further action be taken on the concert plans, and this was seconded by Councillor Barbara Gilliland.
Councillor Lynn Frazer said she had nothing against the proposal per se, but had "objections to the way it was put to us", adding that its mode of presentation did not give members much faith in advancing with it.
Councillor Paula Bradley said she was disappointed at the outcome, but added that she hoped Mr Boyd would "come back again, another time" with a similar proposal.
Speaking after the meeting, Councillor Billy Webb said: "I am relieved that the Council has finally agreed to refuse permission for the pop concert at Hazelbank Park.
"Had this been approved, the local residents of Rushpark and Whitehouse Park would have been prisoners in their homes, through traffic restrictions and the sale of alcohol, as well as subjected to loud music.
"It could have led to untold damage to Hazelbank Park and I have spent too many years protecting the park from development, to see it potentially destroyed by a concert.
"It was a wise decision to refuse permission for this concert and I know it will be welcomed by local residents."
Alderman Nigel Hamilton, who could not be at Monday night's meeting at Mossley Mill, said afterwards that he was disappointed with the Council's decision.
"The decision was clearly not what the Council wanted. I believe that colleagues have misjudged this opportunity and I know that the decision will be received badly by the promoter.
"I regret that Newtownabbey have passed over what would have been a super family event and brought people into the borough in what could have been a weekend of entertainment and fun.
"Why if Carrickfergus can hold two musical extravaganzas in one weekend and bring life to their borough, do councillors in Newtownabbey see it as their role to act as gatekeepers to block something that would give our borough a positive image?" he asked.
Promoter Mr Boyd, who has successfully organised acts for the Shoreline Festival and Ballyclare May Fair for many years, said he too was "disappointed" at the decision.
"I have been in talks with The Saturdays and McFly to play at this concert, and it is disappointing to see the Council has missed an opportunity to bring such big names to play in Newtownabbey," he told the Times.
"I am also saddened that I was not invited to Monday night's meeting, where I could have answered in person any questions about the event that councillors wanted to put to me."

I feel that the pop concert that this article is refering to should be reconsidered as it would be brilliant for Northern Ireland to have two huge pop acts doing a summer gig here. Northern Ireland at this present moment does not have any concerts of this kind and I feel that Northern Ireland needs more events such as this for not only the tourism but for the people who live here.

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