Stevenage Borough Council spent more than £15,000 on preventing Broadwater Day 23 from going ahead earlier this year, new information has revealed.

The revelation comes following a Freedom of Information request submitted by the Comet in relation to legal action taken by the council against the event organisers.

Stevenage Borough Council (SBC) filed the relevant injunction with the High Court in June this year, and they were represented by Ranjit Bhose KC. They paid him legal fees of £12,850 plus VAT.

VAT would have been £2,570, meaning a total cost to SBC of £15,420. The council also had to pay a fee of £569 to bring the case before the High Court.

The total cost to SBC will have been higher still, as the figures quoted above do not include staff time that was spent on stopping the event. The Comet understands that at least three legal professionals from Hertfordshire County Council assisted SBC with matters relating to the case.

Longmeadow and Bragbury End Residents Group (LBERG) had planned to hold a Broadwater Day 23 Jubilee Festival at Shephalbury Park from Friday, June 2 until Sunday, June 4.

James Smith, the lead organiser of the event, did not seek permission or a licence from SBC for the event, and argued that neither was required.

SBC disagreed, and raised safety concerns. After Mr Smith refused to cancel the event, the council filed an injunction to stop it going ahead.

Then, the day before the event was due to start, Mr Smith decided to cancel it. This was confirmed in the High Court hearing on Friday, June 2.

Cllr Richard Henry, the leader of Stevenage Borough Council, has pinned the blame on Mr Smith for the £15,000 bill, saying: "Had he worked responsibly with the council previously, there would have been no need for legal action, and we would have been spared the expense he caused.”

A smaller, one-day Broadwater Day 23 went ahead in August after SBC granted LBERG permission for it to be held.

Responding to this story, Mr Smith told the Comet: "We could have done a lot of good with £15,000 - had we even had £1,000 of that we would have been able to alleviate their concerns as we would have been able to hire toilets, and make sure they get picked up, or get a security guard - we could have had a whole heap of things to help us run the event.

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"We've had funding from the council before, but the hoops that they try to put you through bring you to the point where you think it's easier to be self-funded.

"That £15,000 of legal fees could have paid for ten Broadwater Days.

"They blew it out of proportion and made out as if I was organising Glastonbury, when in reality, it was a small community event."

The legal action also affected Casey, a volunteer who helped Mr Smith organise the cancelled event.

She said that she thinks it was "absolutely disgusting" for SBC to spend £15,000 on legal action, and described them as being "anti-community".

Casey had been volunteering for LBERG for around a year, but decided to step back following the "stress" that she says was caused by SBC's actions. She did not want to risk spending large amounts of time organising another event that could then be cancelled.

"It was a huge blow. I was so depressed about the whole thing that it really put me in a dampened mood for a good few weeks.

"We had done all this work for the community, we were doing something good, and we still got punished in a sense."

She says the council's action made an already stressful role "ten times" more stressful.


Cllr Richard Henry, the leader of Stevenage Borough Council, said: "The council has a legal responsibility to ensure that events are properly licensed and that the safety of members of the public is protected.

"This involves ensuring that events are properly planned, and conditions are in place to protect members of the public, including nearby residents.

"We are very supportive of community events and encourage event organisers to work closely with us to ensure that events are safe and properly licensed.

"We are pleased with the Broadwater Day event that took place in August, Mr Smith went through the proper channels and worked with the council to hold a successful community event."

Broadwater Day is a long-running community event, and was first held in 1971. After an almost decade-long hiatus, it was revived in 2019 by the volunteers who are part of LBERG.