Exeter’s premiership rugby club has been accused of ‘moving the goalposts’ in its bid to bring more big-name music events to its Sandy Park stadium.
The Chiefs have been given permission to host up to six music concerts a year, with crowds of up to 15,000 for each one.
Ronan Keating, Rick Astgley and Will Young were among the artists playing to big crowds in the first Party on the Pitch concerts this year. And now Sandy Park could now emulate Plymouth Argyle’s Home Park stadium with regular bigger names.
The Chiefs say they need to diversify their business, and the gigs will bring much-needed income.
But some people living near the stadium are horrified, saying the trial concerts brought noise, traffic, litter and drunken behaviour.
Residents’ spokesman Kevin Cook told a meeting of Exeter City council’s planning committee: “A lot of residents are feeling frustration and resignation. They feel this is a fait accompli, and this should not be the case.
“One said he felt as if no-one was listening.”
He said it was only a matter of time before the increased traffic using nearby roads to drop off and collect concert-goers caused a serious accident.
And, he went on: “Residents are suffering the very real consequences of these stadium events. They feel they have genuine concerns and issues which are ignored or bypassed. They feel that they are just collateral damage.
“I’m horrified at this. You’ve moved the goalposts and this benefits Sandy Park only.”
The club had applied for permission to increase the number of concerts from this year’s trial of four to six per year.
Chiefs say lessons have been learned after the pandemic sparked financial problems for other rugby clubs such as Worcester, Wasps and London Irish, all of which are now insolvent and out of the premiership.
Chiefs director Mark Isaacs said the club had played a major part in Exeter’s recent growth and brought millions of pounds into the local economy.
He said the noise and crowd restrictions placed on the concerts were some of the tightest on any events in the UK, and the club is willing to work with residents who have concerns.
“These events will bring many benefits to the city and the rugby club for many years to come,” he added.
The committee heard that noise limits on the Sandy Park events would be lower than national guidelines. The six concerts will take place between 1 May and 15 July, avoiding school half term and summer holidays. Councillors also called for the weekend of the Devon County Show to be avoided.
They would be on Saturday or Sunday evenings and amplified music would finish by 10.30pm.
Cllr Mollie Miller (Lab, Pinhoe) said: “These tight and robust conditions will do much to mitigate the impact of these events.”
The committee voted by nine to three to allow the concerts to go ahead, with a number of strict conditions.