Government Policies for Public Space Events
Imagine, you decide to stage an event in a public park, any event – street food festival, community talent show, anything. What then? What do you need to do? Do you simply advertise and then on the day just start setting everything up? Can you close the park? Can you set a stage in a park? – Well, it depends.
First and foremost, depends if the space you wish to use is public or private property. The latter means that a private individual, entity or organisation has the responsibility to manage and control the space. In this situation, you need the permission of that private owner, which can be, for example, a school, a business, a housing association or a private house. However, the former means that state actors are responsible for the space’s management and control. Therefore, you will need the council’s permission, which involves complying with a number of different government regulations and policies. And in order to comply, you need to apply and submit for different applications.
Second, it depends on the city and/or country where you want to stage that experience. Each country has its own set of procedures and regulations; thus, the application requirements and the number of applications will vary.
Third, it depends on the expected size, duration, content, purpose and location of the event. Again, each country will have its own set of rules, but if you want to stage a big event the level of requirements is likely to increase.
You will also be required to conduct a risk assessment of the space, where you need to think about the temperature on the day, is it likely to rain, where to place each object or structure, how to hide the cables, how many emergency personnel will you need, etc.
So, there are a lot of factors you need to take into consideration, towards organising and planning an event in a public space. As a result, you or an event organisation are required to obtain an array of licenses, when the event requires temporary infrastructures, road closures or the distribution and/or sale of any item, such as alcoholic drinks.
Let’s have a look at some of the set of regulations and obligations to use a public space for an event in Portugal and in the United Kingdom.
Portugal has a General Regulation of Urban and Occupancy of Pubic Space and a Law-Decree nº 309/2002, both establish the necessary procedures to have a licence for this exact situation and the rules under which you can apply.
The first step is to make sure the space chosen has been regarded as acceptable, and thus, authorised to be used for that purpose. Then, you have to apply for a municipal license, by providing information like a descriptive justification of the event, the estimated number of attendees, etc. Next, the license will go through representatives in the Environment Department, Traffic Department, Green Spaces Department, Municipal Directorate of Supply and Consumption, among others. Once accepted by all these parties, the process will then pass through the Mayor or Alderman for the final decision. And lastly, once that decision is taken, the Revenue Division will issue or not the license.
Now, the Law-Decree nº 309/2002 further specifies the conditions under which you can build a temporary infrastructure as a public entertainment venue, for example. An improvised enclosure is a temporary venue like a tent, a stage, provisional stands, among others. To be able to build one, you have to pass through the municipal licensing process explained above. However, this provisional venue cannot involve operations that require the installation of permanent structures that could possibly alter the urban landscape, or that require civil construction work.
The UK Parliament developed the Licensing Act (2003), which determines the regulations you or an event organisation has to follow in these situations. Essentially, it establishes that for small events, with less than 500 attendees, the organisation has to obtain a Temporary Event Notice (TEN). Whereby, a fee will be charged, the event period cannot exceed 7 days (168 hours) and the application has to contain a number of key information’s, such as the duration, licensable activities, and more. After the license is submitted, local relevant licensing authorities will have to approve or object to the application.
For a larger event, an event organisation has to apply for a Premises License (PL), where an application has to be submitted containing important information, like the operating schedule, number of attendees, between others. A fee will be charged, which can increase if the event is expected to have more than 5,000 attendees. The application for a Premises License requires an anticipated assessment of possible impacts, because, according to the Health and Safety Executive (n.d.) guide, an organisation must “ensure the event venue/site is designed so that it is safe for people working there and so that the audience”. Additionally, if the event requires for structures “to remain in place for more than 28 days, or if they are particularly extensive, then planning permission is also required” (Smith 2019:219). After the application is submitted the local responsible authorities will have to approve or object to the same and then issue it.
Health and Safety Executive (n.d.) Event safety – Venue and site design. [online] available from: <https://www.hse.gov.uk/event-safety/venue-site-design.htm> [2 February 2020].
Ministério das Cidades, Ordenamento do Território e Ambiente – Decreto-lei n.º 309/2002. Diário da República290 – Isérie – A.
Smith, A. (2019) Event Takeover? The Commercialisation of London’s Park, “in: Smith, A., and Graham, A. (eds.) Destination London: The Expansion of the Visitor Economy.”, pp. 205-223. London: University of Westminster Press.