Events on Your Land

Whether you go DIY or rent your property to organisers, events on your land can be a profitable enterprise if you follow some golden rules, says Linda Krawecke

Say the words “outdoor event” to someone and what springs to mind can be quite varied. Some will think of a music festival. Others will think of a fair or show such as a game fair, garden show or food fair. There are also weddings, company parties, sporting activities, team building days and historical re-enactments.

Outdoor events are popular and can be profitable. You may have entertained the thought of using your property to run such events. It’s a good idea. But what are the first steps? How do you begin if you’ve never ventured into this area before? Here are a few basic steps to consider.

Getty Images picture
Pic: Getty Images

Step 1. Know your property
You probably think you know your land but consider it from an outdoor event point of view. What are ground conditions like when it rains? Is there easy access to open spaces for non-farm vehicles that need to drive on the land or park for a duration of time? How much level space is there?

Are there features on the land that would help or hinder an event? An area that stays wet or muddy is great for mud runs/sporting events but not so great for weddings. A lake or pond can be a beautiful feature but hazardous to events with small children running around.

Think through what it would take to bring marquees, stages and hundreds, or even thousands, of people on to your land. Is it fit for purpose?

Step 2. Your event or their event?
There are two ways an outdoor event can be organised on your land: you run the event yourself, i.e. you decide the nature of the event, organise all the contractors, and make a profit or loss on the outcome. Or you hire your property to someone else who organises the event and makes the profit or loss.

Step 3. Think safety
Whether it is your own event or one someone else has organised, you as the land owner have the ultimate responsibility for the safety of any persons that are invited on to your property. Do a bit of research. Make sure you understand the safety laws and regulations that cover events. There is much useful information on the internet and several professional organisations that can support you, some of which are listed at the end of this article

Investigate insurance for your event or the insurance of anyone hiring your land. You may even want legal advice from your solicitor on making sure you have a good contract with any outside organisers so you both know where your responsibilities lie.

Step 4. Permissions
This is a big one. By inviting the public on to your land, you will very likely need to get permission for the event from your local authority. It will be the primary body making sure you’ve taken the steps necessary to have a safe event with as little impact as possible on your neighbours and local resources such as the police, ambulance crews, fire and rescue services. Here are some of the things they will want to know:

  • Is your event going to unreasonably disturb your neighbours?
  • Will the local roads leading to your property be jammed with vehicles coming to your event?
  • Will your event be serving food? If so, will it be prepared and served so that no one is harmed by food poisoning or allergy reactions?
  • Will your mains water or bore hole water be used? If so, is it potable?
  • Will your event be serving alcohol? How will you make sure that children don’t get access to alcohol? Or that those who are drinking don’t cause a social disturbance?
  • Will you have thieves, pick pockets or trouble makers at your event? How will you prevent them from being there or causing trouble?
  • Have you thought about potential fire hazards?
  • What if there is an emergency; flooding, lightning striking a marquee, collapsed stages, a bomb threat etc. What will you do to make sure people are moved to an area of safety?

If people are invited to your property either by yourself or by an event production organisation and the event is “for a consideration or with a view to a profit”, then you are responsible for ensuring it is safe. Your local authority is the body responsible for seeing that you meet this responsibility by issuing the event with a licence.

Licensing an event
There are certain activities carried out at events which must be authorised – also called ‘licensable activities’. The licensable activities which may be authorised are: selling or serving alcohol, serving late night refreshments (after 11pm), or providing regulated entertainment e.g. music, dancing or indoor sporting events. These activities are covered in the Licensing Act 2003 in England and Wales, and by the Licensing (Scotland) Act 2005 in Scotland.

Regulated entertainment includes:

  • a performance of a play
  • an exhibition of a film
  • an indoor sporting event
  • boxing or wrestling entertainment
  • a performance of live music
  • any playing of recorded music
  • a performance of dance
  • entertainment of a similar description to a performance of live music, any playing of recorded music or a performance of dance.

Chances are that an event on your property will include some of the above activities and will probably need a licence. For events that have less than 500 people attending, the organiser can apply for a TENs licence (Temporary Event Notice), but for any event that may have more than that the organisers need a premises licence.

A premises licence can be applied for on an event-by-event basis by the event organisers. This could be you or it may be the organisation hiring the property from you. A premises licence is: “a permanent licence, granted in respect of a specific location, which authorises the licence-holder to carry on licensable activities. Once a licence is granted, unless a limited duration is specified in the application, a premises licence will be valid for the life of the business, or until it is surrendered or revoked”.

An attractive possibility is holding a permanent premises licence on your property, which means it is licensed all the time and not just for specific dates for specific events. Think of pubs. They hold a permanent premises licence, not just for certain days of the year. This can be very, very attractive to event organisers who want to hold an event but don’t want to go through the entire licence application process.

If you hold the licence, whether it is for ‘limited duration’ or it is on a permanent basis, you have the ultimate responsibility for upholding the conditions of this licence regarding safety, otherwise known as the ‘licence objectives.’

Four Things You Must Ensure

To acquire a licence from the local authority, the potential event organiser will be asked to fill in an application. This might be you or it may be an event organiser holding a licensable event on your property. The application is reviewed by the council’s licensing department, environmental health team, emergency planning team, the “blue light” services (police, fire, ambulance) and others.

Part of the application will ask the organiser how they will meet four licensing objectives as defined within the Licensing Act 2003: Prevention of Crime & Disorder, Public Safety, Prevention of Public Nuisance, Protection of Children from Harm.

Here are some suggestions on meeting each of these four objectives.

1. Prevention of Crime and Disorder

How will the event organisers:

  • monitor guests or attendees for disorderly behaviour or criminal conduct?
  • ensure that there are no weapons or illegal substances or items at the event?
  • ensure that only invited or ticketed persons enter the event?

Possible things the organiser can do to maintain this objective:

  • advertise “terms and conditions” of entry to the event
  • secure the perimeter of the event: fencing, personnel, signs or in some cases CCTV cameras
  • have specific personnel whose job it is to watch for and act upon crime or disorderly behaviour. In other words, security personnel.

A note about professional security guards: security personnel need to have something called an SIA badge to indicate they are registered with the Security Industry Association and have had proper training. And if you don’t want a big ‘bouncer’ kind of security guy at your event, please be aware that SIA badged people can be men, women, old, young, dressed in suits or in outdoor wear. It’s up to the event organiser on the type of security they hire.

2. Public Safety

How will the event organisers:

  • prevent people from being harmed or injured by any item or activity within the event area?
  • keep people safe in the event of an emergency such as a fire, collapsed building or severe storm?
  • make sure that people who may become ill or injured receive quick effective treatment?

Possible things the organiser can do to maintain this objective:

  • create a risk assessment for the event identifying elements that may lead to injury, illness or damage, and list how they will reduce those risks
  • have an Emergency Evacuation and Incident Plan in place
  • have adequately trained medical personnel on hand to treat any immediate illnesses or injuries.

The local fire and rescue service will very particularly want to see what fire prevention methods will be in place and want to see how the event will assess fire risk, prevent overcrowding in tents and marquees, and evacuate people during an emergency. Event organisers may wish to hire the support of an event safety advisor or event fire service to help with some of the planning.

3. Prevention of Public Nuisance

How will the event organisers:

  • ensure minimal impact on neighbours and other public?
  • prevent noise and sounds from keeping people awake during unsocial hours or for a very long period?
  • make sure that roads and highways nearby aren’t jammed or blocked so that others can go about their business?

Possible things the organiser can do to maintain this objective:

  • inform the local community of the event and be open to questions and concerns
  • for music events, have an ‘acoustic survey’ done of the event area to assess the levels of acceptable projected sounds
  • have a traffic management plan and personnel who will ensure that event traffic is quickly off the public roads and safely parked.

The larger the number of people attending the event, the more that the Highways Department and police will want to know how there will be prevention of traffic build up, both when people arrive for the event and when they leave.

4. Protection of Children from Harm

How will the event organisers:

  • make sure children separated from their parent are kept safe – or a child who goes missing is found?
  • ensure that alcohol is not sold or consumed by those under the age of 18?
  • make sure anyone who is working specifically with children is vetted as safe to do so
  • ensure children are not exposed to any movies, performances, acts or material that are of an adult nature.

Possible things the organiser can do to maintain this objective:

  • have a strong child safety policy in place which details how found and missing children will be dealt with
  • make sure all bar personnel check IDs and security personnel are available to back them up
  • monitor any adult-themed activities and ban those under-aged from attending
  • check the background and safety certificates of anyone who will be working with children on site.

It is wise to make sure that anyone under the age of 18 is accompanied by a parent or otherwise responsible adult at the event. Otherwise, the licence holder becomes the ‘responsible adult’ and should the child or youth become ill, injured, drunk or get into trouble, the police and social services will want to know why the licence holder did nothing to safeguard that child or youth.

Not my event, not my problem
But what if you don’t want to run your own event or hold a licence? What if you want to hire out your property to others and let someone else take on the licence and responsibility of the ‘Four Licensing Objectives’? How then are you still responsible for a safe event?

Other than the moral duty of wanting to see that everyone is safe and sound while on your property, don’t forget, it is your name and reputation associated with that land. If you want to continue to use your property for events, you have a vested interest in making sure any organisers coming to your site are practising safety as this will reflect on you.

Don’t forget, these are your neighbours and your council. Event organisers can leave once the event is over but you live here. A poorly organised or unsafe event that has a negative impact on neighbours or the council will make future events on your property difficult

You have a right to question anyone wanting to hire your land about how they plan to meet the four licensing objectives. Ask to see their safety plans and risk assessments. Ask how they plan to manage traffic and control noise – things that impact on your neighbours. Talk to the council’s Licensing Department, ask if they have concerns about the event. Often councils may request meeting with you even if you are not the licence holder.

No one knows your land the way that you do. Offer advice and support to organisers. Let them know about things on the property such as the presence of overhead power lines or underground cables that may be damaged if marquee pegs are driven into the ground. They will also need to know about water supply and ground conditions – is there good drainage, are there trackways to follow? Don’t forget to mention if there are any public right of way paths or protected areas of Specific Scientific Interest (SSI). Finally, think about what support can you offer. Do you have tractors or plant that may be useful? Straw bales that can be used? All of these things can bring in extra revenue.

Running an event can be a creative and interesting way to generate income from your property. With just a bit of research and planning on how to manage the event safely for everyone, you could see a wide world of outdoor events running right there on your doorstep.

About the Author
Linda Krawecke
Linda Krawecke, owner/manager of Tiger Tea, has been involved with events for 22 years. Her career started with the management of indoor conferences before moving to the world of outdoor events where she was predominantly involved with safety management including risk assessing, emergency planning and compliance with councils’ licensing terms.

Linda has worked on events as diverse as music festivals, historic re-enactments, arts festivals, garden shows, fun fairs, mud runs and many others. She has assisted several councils and groups by offering training days and guidance documents for would-be event organisers. In helping clients look for locations to hold outdoor events she understands what others want from a site. She has survived muddy fields, scorching heat, pounding rain and blistered feet, but still loves to work outdoors.

Useful Links

  • – the Health & Safety Executive website has loads on information. This is a good place to start.
  • – the ‘how to’ bible for music events and a good practical guide for all events.
  • – many district or county councils will have their own version of the London Events Toolkit. Though this one is aimed at London boroughs, much of the advice is very solid.
  • – the National Outdoor Event Association is a trade organisation for professionals who work in the outdoor events industry. A good source of current information and a members list of contractors in the events industry.
  • – the Nationwide Caterers Association is a good place to source mobile or temporary food units and get helpful information on food safety.
  • and – two key industry-related trade shows where you can visit stalls and demonstrations on everything from stages, marquees and portable toilets to children’s entertainment, fun fairs and temporary bars. Free to attend.
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