St Albans council apology over pub’s opening hours appeal
PUBLISHED: 19:30 25 September 2014
Faced with the anger of civic watchdogs over opening hours at a city centre pub, St Albans council has admitted it was discourteous in not letting residents know the issue was going to appeal.
St Albans Civic Society lodged an official complaint with the council after it reached an out-of-court agreement with The Snug in French Row that would allow it to remain open until 2am every day of the week except Sunday.
The agreement was reached despite objections from local residents who had protested at a council licensing sub-committee hearing in April about the anticipated noise and disturbance from the longer opening hours.
The sub-committee agreed that The Snug could only remain open until 2am on Fridays and Saturdays but, unbeknown to the residents, the pub owner appealed against the decision.
And before the scheduled hearing in the magistrates court, the council agreed that the pub could remain open until 2am six days a week.
The Civic Society lodged its official complaint because there had been no material change in the situation between the sub-committee decision and the appeal – yet the objections of residents went unheeded.
In his response to the complaint, the council’s legal services manager Charles Turner pointed out that there was no statutory obligation to consult objectors when an appeal was received by the licensing authority (the council).
However he accepted that it was discourteous not to do so and pledged that in future the council would undertake to notify objectors and ward councillors when an appeal was submitted to the magistrates court.
Mr Turner did not accept the Civic Society’s contention that a precedent had been set for longer opening hours at other city centre pubs, He also maintained that the decision not to defend the appeal was taken, with the knowledge of the licensing sub-committee, because there were no records of specific complaints about noise in respect of The Snug.
He added: “However, we agree that we could have been clearer in our communications with residents about the reasons for the decision and will seek to do this in future cases.”
A key thrust of the residents’ objections is the difficulty in making a complaint because of the requirement to pinpoint exactly which pub disturbances emanated from.
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