In a groundbreaking move, Exeter City Council has given the green light to the Exeter Chiefs rugby club, granting them planning permission to host six concerts annually at the illustrious Sandy Park stadium. The concerts, slated for Saturday and Sunday evenings between May 1 and July 15 each year, mark a significant departure from the venue’s historical use and promise to be a cultural spectacle for residents and visitors alike.
The planning consent, issued during Monday’s council planning committee meeting, signifies a permanent variation to an existing planning restriction that had hitherto prevented Sandy Park from transforming into a music or performance venue. This restriction, initially imposed when the stadium’s capacity was doubled eleven years ago, has now been lifted to pave the way for a harmonious blend of sports and entertainment.
Under the new permission, a maximum of 15,500 attendees, including event staff, will be allowed to revel in the music festivities at each concert. The audible delights, in the form of loud amplified music, will echo through the stadium from 4 pm to 10.30 pm. This decision follows a meticulous review of noise and transport impact surveys conducted during four trial concerts held at the venue in June. Despite the trial events hosting no more than 3,550 attendees each, they played a pivotal role in bolstering the club’s application to amend the longstanding restriction.
Interestingly, the Exeter Chiefs’ confidence in securing approval was so unwavering that ticket sales commenced two months before the planning consent was officially granted. This move showcased the club’s conviction in the positive outcome of the trial events and, by extension, the resounding success of their ambitious proposal.
While the recent development has been met with enthusiasm from the rugby club and its supporters, not all voices in the community are singing in harmony. A public speaker during the council meeting raised concerns about the adverse effects of the trial concerts. Accounts of extreme anti-social behavior, noise disturbances, and traffic congestion were recounted, with formal complaints lodged against the events.
The speaker highlighted the plight of local residents who experienced the brunt of the disturbances, stating that many now felt like “collateral damage” in the wake of the decision. Expressing dismay, the speaker remarked on the permanency of the consent, characterizing it as a “fait accompli.” Despite these reservations, the rugby club’s representative insisted that the trial events had been successful, contributing millions to the local economy and even bringing forth a “much-needed four-star hotel.”
Addressing concerns about noise curfews, the representative argued that a 9.30 pm Sunday concert cutoff would not be optimal, recounting the club’s experiment with such a timeline. He expressed belief that the concerts could extend into the evening without unduly affecting the surroundings. The meeting also revealed that National Highways had stipulated a 9 pm commencement for the main act at each concert, with supporting acts taking the stage from 4 pm onward. This scheduling strategy aims to stagger the impact of event-generated traffic on nearby junction 30 of the M5.
The council’s assurance that independent experts had thoroughly scrutinized all pertinent issues arising from the trial events provided reassurance. Their findings concluded that there were “no significant impacts,” thereby quelling concerns regarding potential long-term disruptions.
As the dust settles on the council’s decision, Exeter prepares to embrace a new era of entertainment at Sandy Park stadium. The six approved concerts each year promise not only to elevate the city’s cultural landscape but also to inject a significant economic boost. Whether the events will strike a harmonious chord with the entire community remains to be seen, but one thing is certain – Sandy Park is set to transform into a multifaceted hub of excitement and celebration.