The proposed Salcombe Hill campsite: perceived winners and losers.

Updated 31 December 2013 - this page will now be left as it is, as a record of views at the end of 2013.

The decision by the Licensing Committee of East Devon District Council on 10 December 2013 to allow the use of the proposed new campsite at the top of Salcombe Hill resulted in both indignation in some Sidmouth residents and concern for the future well-being of the festival amongst some long term attendees - some of whom are also local residents.

Whilst much local feeling was very much against the idea of moving the campsite - mainly citing concerns about traffic and risks on the steep narrow hill leading from Sidmouth, some 'folkies' expressed concern that a move could damage both the festival as a 'part of the town' and cause perennial ill-feeling amongst some local residents - something that has largely been avoided at the Bulverton site owing probably to absence of any extra vehicular traffic along the quiet Woolbrook roads where late night noise (music?) has historically been tolerated.

In contrast, it is feared that previously quiet areas near to Sidmouth will suffer a 'double whammy' of late night noise and vastly increased traffic on roads that are (it may be argued) both unsuitable and potentially dangerous. Unlike the area of Woolbrook that has 'grown up' with the festival, Salcombe Regis is a sleepy and upmarket backwater with its own character and priorities.

On both sides (both pro- and anti- festival) the topic of principal concern is the risk to walkers, residents and drivers from a large increase in the use of narrow local roads including Salcombe Hill during the hours of darkness and especially by heavily laden shuttle buses.


Arguments were rehearsed in the EDDC agenda document : these are pertinent summary extracts.

4.2 A mediation meeting was held at the East Devon District Council Offices on Friday 22 November 2013 chaired by the Licensing Authority and attended by the applicants and twenty five local residents who had made representations. The mediation meeting was not successful and no agreement was reached.

6.7 The main reasons given by the applicants for a move to the proposed new site is that the fields are level and better drained than the other site and unlike Bulverton there is no road to cross between the late night venue marquee and the campsite. Also the festival is competing with other events across the country and this site would provide a better facility that is commensurate with their customer expectations and needs.

6.8 The representations from the sixty one residents relate mainly to concerns that the location of the proposed venue and campsite is inappropriate due to poor vehicular access and narrow roads. This could cause a danger to both vehicles and pedestrians’ using the road particularly during the hours of darkness as the route between the town and venue is not well lit. Also highlighted was that in previous years a separate ‘fringe festival’ has been held in the area during the same week. This festival also included a temporary camping site and it was felt that the road problems would be compounded and added to by campers walking along narrow roads between the two sites. There is also concern that there will be illegal camping in the area with extra noise nuisance, disturbance and anti-social behaviour connected with late night alcohol sales. There are also concerns that there may be extra litter and criminality in the local area caused by people attending the event.

7. Appeals. Those making relevant representations may appeal if they believe that the licence should not have been granted, or that, when granting the licence, the licensing authority ought to have imposed different or additional conditions or excluded a licensable activity or refused to specify a persona as designated premises supervisor. The magistrates’ court may dismiss the appeal, or substitute its own decision, or send back the case to the licensing authority with directions as to how the case is to be dealt with. The magistrates’ court may make any costs order it thinks fit.

The agenda for the 10 December meeting on the EDDC website is here. The minutes of the meeting are here (
link when available).

The document also contains dozens of 'anti' comments from residents (many of them similar). Two examples are reproduced below.

sidmouth eddc extract caravans.jpg (25294 bytes)                sidmouth eddc extract salcombe.jpg (12207 bytes)

The arguments may most usefully can be organised according to 'who would benefit' from the proposed move. What cannot be disputed is that there would be an increased risk of death or injury because of extensive use of Salcombe Hill by pedestrians, car drivers and possibly mini-buses, and at night.

There could even be a risk to the festival itself following any accident involving multiple casualties and especially of children.

So who would benefit from the move and who would suffer?

Please do send me your views - for or against my analysis!     stevewozniak42 (AT) hotmail.com

Folk Week organisers They would benefit from the move because the new site would need probably fewer stewards and be easier to organise being on one compact site. Also they could make much better use of the expensive dance venue and (no doubt) sell more alcohol there, thus enabling a higher rate of payment from the Anchor Inn (who run the bar at the Bulverton and at the Ham). However, they would need to provide traffic light one-way control of narrow roads perhaps for the duration of the festival.

A major benefit to the festival (and thus to all persons attending) would be that access for heavy construction vehicles to the proposed new site would be far easier in wet weather. It has been highlighted that in 2012 it might have proved impossible to construct the Bulverton venue had the storms of July 2012 occurred one or two weeks later.

The new site would enable all vehicles to use public roads direct to the venue, in contrast to the 'unmade track' leading to the Bulverton car park and the sloping field access to the dance venue.
Camping attendees (maybe) Most would benefit. They would have a less problematic campsite with better drainage (but maybe higher wind speeds) and with better campsite security. They would also be within easy walking distance of the dance hub and free to explore the adjacent woodland. However, pedestrian access to the town would be far more dangerous especially at night. Using a bicycle would be all but impossible (or suicidal?). Users of motorised scooters might have no easy access to the site.
Local residents of Woolbrook They would benefit because they would no longer have to suffer the late night noise associated with over-amplified music at the Bulverton. They might be less pleased were houses to be built on what are now the camping fields.
Local residents Salcombe Hill and Salcombe Regis These people would be amongst the most affected by the move - there would be probably 15 days in total of heavy goods vehicles (during the build and take down phases) and a massive increase in vehicle and pedestrian traffic along narrow and normally fairly quiet roads and for 18 hours each day. Late night noise could be an issue, as could disruption to the 'normal' tourist activities in the area, something that does not occur in or around the Bulverton site. Salcombe Regis village is already 'busy' with tourists during the summer period: the relocation of the campsite could turn the village into a congested no-go area for 10 days or more.
Local 'folkie' residents of Sidmouth We could be seriously disadvantaged by the proposed move if adequate casual car parking is not provided at the new venue. For example, to attend LNE we might have to park in town and use a woefully inadequate shuttle bus service to get to and from new venue. At the moment we can simply drive to the Bulverton car park. It is then a short walk to the LNE. The move might therefore much inconvenience some 'loyal' local supporters of the festival - and not only those of us who attend LNE if major dance or music events are held at the new proposed 'dance and music hub' earlier in the day.
Ham concert-goers These people would be seriously inconvenienced by any inadequacy in the shuttle bus service if they utilised the proposed new campsite. Large numbers of people may wish to travel from the site to the Ham at about the same time. This group could not easily be ignored by FolkWeek management - they provide significant income via ticket sales.
LNE attendees in town As above, a large number of people may wish to get from town to the LNE venue within a short period of time. Many of these are youngsters who might not be too concerned by any inconvenience. They might treat it as a challenge to walk!
National Trust car park and woodland This could be adversely affected. Already there is a problem in and around Sidmouth with camper vans and campers avoiding FolkWeek campsite fees by utilising car parks and areas up Peak Hill (for example) to camp 'illegally'. The FolkWeek organisers issue annual exhortations to observe the rules, and routinely the Police and local councils ignore all the transgressors - which only serves to encourage more of them! The new area would be far more prone to an increase in this type of activity and with the Police probably powerless and/or unwilling to act.
Youngsters at the campsite These people would arguably benefit. They would have much of what they wanted (food and drink and themselves) at one venue within easy reach of the head-banging music that may characterise the new hub. A benefit would be that more of them might attend any dance workshops held at the hub - and they might learn something! Few of these youngsters attend workshops in Church Hall venues, and they are amongst the people who need to learn ceilidh dance properly.
The festival itself? This could be argued to benefit from a 'all-in-one' site but a major feature of FolkWeek is that it is very much held IN SIDMOUTH and should as far as possible be retained as part of the town. Therefore any worsening of the access from the campsite to the town would be unwelcome - one fear is that many people will elect to stay almost exclusively at the new campsite and 'hub' and utilising the food and drink outlets there instead of those in town.
Casual visitors to major dances In the past the Bulverton has attracted many 'one-off' visitors to events such an evening of French dancing featuring Blowzabella. If such events were to be repeated in the new dance hub - where would these casual visitors park? The area of parking shown on the plans is vastly less than has been available at Bulverton.
Other campsite owners? One of the reasons FolkWeek wishes to move to a new venue is to attract more caravan and motor camper owners who presently prefer the flat 'wide open spaces' of (say) the Thorn Park site to the mud and sloping pitches at the Bulverton. But the proposed site is much smaller and space may be at a premium unless three fields are brought into use for camping - anyone who values peace and quiet and some space may prefer still to use Thorn Park - as may people who will see Thorn Park as a quieter alternative to the now nearby dance and music hub.
Social dancers (small numbers?) The major social dance venue is now Stowford Rise - miles away from the proposed new campsite. Very few social dancers camp at Bulverton but any who use the new proposed site may find their journey to Stowford Rise a lengthy and tedious process unless they are allowed free use of their cars on and off the campsite, and in all weathers. Social dancers have been promised 'improved transport to Stowford Rise' in 2014 - paid for by Sidmouth Town Council's extra grant of 10,000! But this is likely to be from the town centre, not direct from the Salcombe Hill campsite.

sidmouth latest news2.jpg (86372 bytes)

As of the end of 2013, the mood seems to have shifted from one of gushing optimism to one of cautious reassessment, maybe because of the possibility of an Appeal against granting of the Licence. It was stated initially:

A final decision will be made before Christmas.


One principal obstacle still to be overcome may be the hostility of residents in the vicinity of the proposed site. These are people from an area and a village of East Devon that owe little or no allegiance to FolkWeek despite their close proximity to Sidmouth.

Most of the discussion about the new site has centred upon the practicalities of mass transport and the need to ensure that people can walk safely to and from the site should  they be fit enough (or foolish enough) to attempt the journey on foot. It is something that arguably simply cannot be done unless all vehicle traffic were to be banned from Salcombe Hill for the duration of the festival.

All minibus journeys would then have to take the longer route via Fortescue and the A3052. This would add to the obvious problem of peak load capacity.

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