Statement from Ruth George MP for High Peak
“I am delighted that Buxton Raceway has cancelled the ‘Lights Fest’ event which involved the mass release of sky lanterns, due to be held at the Raceway on 28th July.
“Buxton Raceway venue is in the middle of open moorland, where wildfires are constantly breaking out nearby and Derbyshire Fire Service is stretched to full capacity in trying to keep blazes under control.
“However I am appalled that the American company Viive Events refused to cancel themselves in spite of the outright opposition from Derbyshire Fire Service of which I sent them written evidence.
“They are also continuing to advertise and sell tickets for the event, and I understand they have threatened to enforce payment for breach of contract by Buxton Raceway for cancelling it.
“I have written to Viive Events to call on them to stop advertising the tickets and to refund everyone who has bought a ticket, as there is no prospect of the event being able to be re-scheduled either during the summer or in the autumn when winds will be too strong to meet UK government guidelines of a maximum 5mph for a mass sky lantern release.”
The Lights Fest website claims: “Our lantern launch will take place at nightfall and is 100% dependent on the fire marshal’s approval.”
Yet on 2nd July, Terry McDermott, Derbyshire’s Chief Fire Officer wrote to me: “Obviously the use of Sky Lanterns in any area, particularly in the middle of the Peak District at this time, is undesirable. I confirm we are strongly opposed to this and we are liaising with other authorities to explore the possibility of stopping the release of the Sky Lanterns.
“We are looking into the possibility of a Prohibition Notice under The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 and the Police are looking at a Closure Notice under the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014. We are also considering an injunction but the Notices are the faster options and partner organisations support these actions.”
Ruth continued: “I sent the Chief Fire Officer’s letter (full text below) to both Viive Events and Buxton Raceway on and called on both organisations to do the decent thing and cancel the event, to prevent our hard-pressed fire services from having to expend unnecessary time and effort undertaking legal proceedings to prohibit the event when they were already overstretched with fighting moorland fires.
“Yet in spite of no prospect of the Fire Authority’s approval, and even following the refusal of a music licence by High Peak Borough Council, Viive Events still refused to cancel the event.
“They are still advertising and selling tickets to both the ‘Manchester’ and ‘Birmingham’ events which are both listed at Buxton Raceway on 28th July, in spite of knowing that it cannot go ahead.
“I have written to the company again to ask them to withdraw the tickets from sale and to offer full refunds to all ticketholders for both the Manchester and Birmingham events.
“I have also written to the police to ask them to investigate possible crimes of mis-selling and selling under false pretences.”
Viive Events’ website states that if an event is cancelled, the company will not refund tickets but will re-arrange within 90 days of the original date. Ticketholders have to attend the re-arranged date at whichever venue or they will not obtain a refund.
Refunds are only obtainable if an alternative date is not rearranged within 90 days. Buxton is already the venue for the ‘Birmingham’ event that was cancelled earlier in the year, so if the Buxton event does not go ahead, the ‘Birmingham’ ticketholders will be due refunds.
Facebook Group ‘The LightsFest Scam’, based in America, contains numerous testimonies of the company refusing to respond to requests for refunds, even where events were not re-arranged.
“Even more worrying, in the last 24 hours, several further events in the Peak District area have appeared advertised on the company’s website in Leeds, Sheffield and South Yorkshire, so they may seek to reschedule their Buxton event elsewhere to save them having to make refunds.
“As the whole Peak District will be highly flammable to weeks if not months to come, any prospect of a sky lantern event should be opposed at all costs.
“I have again called on the company to do the decent thing, but they have had many chances over the past few weeks, and have failed to do so. I hope the police will be able to prevent any more unwitting venues signing up to hold a LightsFest Event or members of the public from purchasing tickets.
“The company appears to be a total scam and I would warn all companies, individuals and authorities to refuse to engage with them.”
Full Text Of letter to Ruth George MP from Derbyshire Chief Fire Officer, 2nd July:
I refer to your email of 23 June 2018 and have responded to your questions below.
Obviously the use of Sky Lanterns in any area, particularly in the middle of the Peak District at this time, is undesirable. I confirm we are strongly opposed to this and we are liaising with other authorities to explore the possibility of stopping the release of the Sky Lanterns.
As statutory consultees to an application for an Events Licence we will be responding to the application highlighting the risks but that may not be sufficient to stop the release of Sky Lanterns.
We are looking into the possibility of a Prohibition Notice under The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 and the Police are looking at a Closure Notice under the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014. We are also considering an injunction but the Notices are the faster options and partner organisations support these actions.
I am hoping that common sense prevails and continue to liaise with the Police and other contacts.
If you have any questions about this letter then please contact me.
Chief Fire Officer / Chief Executive
Derbyshire Fire & Rescue