This statement on Hillsborough Park and Tramlines is issued by the three ward councillors for Hillsborough ward: Christine Gilligan Kubo, Henry Nottage, and Toby Mallinson.
Tramlines is an event many people really look forward to and enjoy each year. It’s loved by large numbers of local residents and those from further afield. But this year, Hillsborough Park became a mud-bath. Restoring the park is going to take a very long time, with current estimates suggesting barriers will remain up until the end of October.
We are closely monitoring the repair and restoration work and are very concerned about the significant impact the required closure of large areas is having on park use during the summer holidays and on local businesses that rely on visitor numbers.
We are seeing more extreme rainfall events in the climate emergency. There is an increasing likelihood that similar weather will affect future festivals with similar impacts.
The park is important for the health and well-being of many Hillsborough residents. However, many community and sports groups, including Parkrun, have been unable to use the park, while families or friends have been unable to enjoy spending time together in the main grassed area.
We view Hillsborough Park as a public asset that should be used for public recreation – most of the park should not be closed during the summer school holiday period by large-scale commercial activities.
Tramlines arrived in Hillsborough Park in 2018 promising a boost to local businesses and community. Businesses close to the park struggle during the 18-day set-up and takedown period as park visitor numbers drop significantly while the fences are up – a drop currently continuing through the summer holidays and well beyond. The more recent removal of re-entry additionally prevents many businesses from seeing any benefits during the festival weekend.
There is a lack of transparency on the council’s contractual relationship with Tramlines with commercial confidentiality cited. We believe the economic and cultural benefits of the festival no longer outweigh the negative impacts combined with the risk of park damage.
We have requested an urgent meeting with the relevant Committee Chairs and council officers responsible for the Tramlines contract. We are also seeking urgent answers from council officers on how payments received from hiring the park to Tramlines will be used to compensate community groups and teams unable to use the park.
Consideration must now be given to finding suitable alternative venues in the Sheffield area to host the event. If that were to happen, we would seek support for Tramlines fringe events to be held in Hillsborough venues. That would boost local businesses and provide options for local people to enjoy, including those who can’t afford Tramlines ticket prices.
Finding an alternative venue may take time and it must be considered likely that Tramlines will be in Hillsborough Park next year. If this is the case, we are demanding:
– A robust weather action plan that kicks in based on forecasts – not when forecast heavy rain has started to fall.
– More temporary surfacing and walkways during the festival to protect the park surface.
– A lower capacity. The park is not big enough to hold events attended by 40,000 people. Fewer people attending would help reduce the risk of damage and the areas removed from public use.
– No additional similar-sized events. The Arctic Monkeys’ hometown return concerts were joyful, but these increased the total time when access was restricted to the parkland, and risked similar damage if there had been bad weather.
– Restore the right of re-entry to all ticket holders to help local residents and businesses.
Our belief that an alternative site is found is not made without full consideration – we know that many people love having a big festival within walking distance. But most of the park has been damaged this year and access will have been lost to many areas for close to 4 months in total.
We will update local residents on Hillsborough area social media groups on a regular basis as our enquiries continue and the repair work progresses. As always, we will take into account comments posted comments and discussions with local people and organisations across the Hillsborough council ward.