Boardmasters – the biggest music festival in Cornwall and one of the largest in the UK – is seeking permanent planning permission for the first time to hold the event at its annual base at Trebelsue Farm, Watergate Bay.

The festival, which has only previously been given temporary permission, is also applying to increase the size of the site with improved and safer pedestrian links.

The proposals will come before a strategic planning committee meeting next week at the request of local member Cllr Paul Wills, who has raised concerns about the impact of Boardmasters on the character of the area.

Neighbouring town and parish councils have also raised concerns following complaints made by residents in the Newquay area.

More than 80 comments have been left on Cornwall Council’s online planning portal, with many – including the neighbouring Watergate Bay Hotel – objecting to the plans in regard to the impact on roads in the Newquay area, the proposed closure of the B3276, the growth of the site and environmental impact on the countryside including the loss of Cornish hedges.

Boardmasters is looking to make its home permanent

However, around ten of those who have written to the council, including Cornwall Chamber of Commerce, support the application, citing the positive economic and cultural impact on the Duchy. Another positive raised is the entertainment factor for the county’s young people who are often starved of seeing the sort of acts the rest of the country is able to enjoy.

The festival was granted a licence earlier this year for 58,000 people for this year’s event which takes place in August. The 2022 festival generated approximately £39.9 million in total revenue for the local and wider economy of Cornwall.

Full permission

Up until now Boardmasters has been given annual temporary planning permission since its inception in 2005. Next week’s committee meeting will hear that permanent planning consent is now sought to provide “stability for the festival so that it is on a level playing field with other major festivals in the UK which do not ordinarily require planning consent”.

As well as an increased site area from 184.5 hectares to 229.2 hectares, festival organisers Vision Nine want to create an improved pedestrian link along the south-western boundary to allow for the safe movement of festivalgoers between the site and Newquay town centre. 

The festival brings thousands of people to Cornwall every yearThe festival brings tens of thousands of people to Cornwall every year

The company is also seeking permission for additional and widened pedestrian gate entrance and exit between the main arena and camping areas across the B3276 to allow for “improved footfall, improved health and safety and visitor experience”.

They also want to create an additional area to extend the main festival “to add new content and points of interest for visitors such as performance installations, workshops and smaller stages”. In addition, festival organisers are asking for an “element of flexibility” which would ensure that if extreme weather were to make any parts of the event unusable there is back-up space within the bigger site.

Local response

Newquay Town Council has stated it has no objection to the application but noted that councillors are aware there are competing local views towards the festival – some objecting to the event and some in support. In its submission, the council stated: “However, it is felt the permission applied for would not, in broad terms, appear to worsen the impact that already exists. That said, the public comments posted on the Cornwall Council planning register do need to be addressed, not just ignored.”

It added: “Furthermore, the town council wishes to make it very clear that every year it receives a level of communication from unhappy residents highlighting various issues associated with the festival, particularly with the management of toilet facilities on site. The festival also draws a range of traders and promoters to the town who seem intent on carrying out their activities without having first secured the relevant permissions.

“Currently, there appears to be limited scope for the town council to communicate its own concerns, or to reflect those expressed by residents, back to Cornwall Council and the event organisers. If the festival is to achieve its much-stated goal of being ‘a good neighbour to Newquay’, this needs to change.”

People come from all over the countryPeople come from all over the country

Colan Parish Council has objected to the application “due to the detrimental effect on the wildlife that removing hedges will cause. More and more of the environment is being destroyed every year as this festival increases in size”.

St Mawgan In Pydar Parish Council has also objected to the proposal, on the grounds of the increase in size, the impact on the environment and wildlife, impact on local residents, the proposed road closure and the carbon footprint.


As part of Cornwall Council planning department’s balance of considerations, it advises that possible harm to the character of the area, associated noise, light, volume of people and traffic could have a detrimental effect for the few days Boardmasters is operating. However, it noted that many mitigating factors have been put in place to lessen any impact.

The council also notes that “significant social and economic benefits which arise from Boardmasters must also not be overlooked”. In 2022 the applicant spent £1.5 million alone with Cornish suppliers, with 53 per cent of attending businesses also using Cornish-based suppliers in the operations for the festival.

The planning report adds: “The applicant has demonstrated a commitment over several years in respect to safeguarding wildlife, with mitigations agreed with the RSPB and Cornwall Wildlife Trust in place that safeguard ecological interests together with measures that will generate a biodiversity net gain. These weigh in favour in the planning balance. Without the Boardmasters event, the extensive areas of land reserved for habitat enhancement would not be secured.”

The application is recommended for conditional approval and will be decided by a strategic planning committee on Thursday, June 13 at County Hall / Lys Kernow in Truro.