A ROW has erupted between organisers of a cancelled food festival and Dorset Council over the planning of the event.

The food showcase eat: Lyme Regis was due to begin on Saturday, April 27.

However, the event was shelved after Dorset Council, which owns the land where the event was due to take place pulled the plug, leaving organisers furious.

Organisers say their social enterprise has taken a financial hit of £4,000 by having to cancel the event. They are refunding all the producers in full.

The people behind the event made a number of claims blaming the council.

Dorset Council has hit back at organisers, saying the event management plan was refused a month in advance of the planned date, and criticised organisers for promoting the festival when it had already been refused.

The council also accused the 2022 festival of causing "significant operational issues" to the delivery of public services to the town.

Organisers of eat:Festivals expressed their frustration in a statement.

Bridport and Lyme Regis News: crowds on the seafront at eat: Lyme Regis in 2022crowds on the seafront at eat: Lyme Regis in 2022 (Image: eat: Festivals)

Organisers said they had submitted the required paperwork in a timely manner but were told one month before the festival that permission had not been granted for use of a piece of land which they say they had "not applied to use". They then tried to appeal this.

They were then told about "significant operational issues" which the council said an event in 2022 caused and claimed all of the issues had been covered in their event management plan.

A spokesperson for eat: Festivals said: "We have followed Dorset Council's processes to the letter.

"We were then offered a meeting to discuss the festival, but instead got an email at 6.30pm on Monday, April 15, saying that Dorset Council will not be granting permission to use Gun Cliff Walk. 

"Cancelling eat:Lyme Regis festival at this short notice means that over 65 local food and drink producers have lost the opportunity to meet new customers, potential visitors to Lyme Regis are disappointed and local businesses miss out on a chance to promote the best of their businesses to a new audience."

Bridport and Lyme Regis News: eat: Lyme Regis in 2022eat: Lyme Regis in 2022 (Image: eat: Festivals)

Council "stand by" their decision

Dorset Council said permission was refused a full month in advance of the planned date.

A spokesperson said: "On March 26, we informed the event organisers that we will not be granting landowner permission to EAT Festival for the use of the land requested to hold their event – a full month in advance of their planned date.

"It appears the organisers chose to proceed with publicity for the festival – as well as booking stallholders – both before our decision was made and even after they were informed of the refusal, presumably in the hope our decision would be overturned.

"When we became aware of this continuing publicity and attempts to appeal the decision by contacting council departments outside of the appropriate team, we wrote to the organisers to reiterate our refusal for the event.

"It is this contact that appears to be driving their false “12 days’ notice” claim.

"We fully stand by our decision to refuse permission for this event.

"The 2022 festival caused significant operational issues to the delivery of public services to the town.

"Both Dorset Council and Lyme Regis Town Council were not satisfied that due consideration had been given to the operational aspects when considering the location and size of this event.

"Dorset Council has robust processes in place to support private organisers, as evidenced in the hundreds of successful large-scale events we grant permission for in any given year.

"We believe that the confusion around this festival has been caused by the organisers by choosing to proceed with their plans before permission was granted, and then not taking appropriate action to rearrange/cancel plans after refusal was given last month."

Lyme Regis town clerk John Wright said: “Dorset Council consulted with the town council and gave a view that it did not support the event. However, the event was due to take place on Dorset Council’s land so it makes the decision as to whether the event proceeds.”

The festival is part of a group of festivals run by the not-for-profit social enterprise eat: Festivals, which runs festivals across the UK.

The event was first held in 2021 and then again in 2022, but it was not held in 2023 as it clashed with the King's Coronation.