Surprise rejection of St Albans pub licence changes

The Brickyard Pub in St Albans

The Brickyard Pub in St Albans - Credit: Archant

Stunned silence greeted a surprise decision to reject a request for changes to a premises licence for a pub in St Albans’ conservation area.

Representatives of various residents groups admitted they were left “flabbergasted” when St Albans district council’s licensing sub-committee rejected an application for the variation of a premises licence for The Brickyard – formerly The Spotted Bull – on Verulam Road.

The owner of the pub, James Hanning, has courted controversy by pushing ahead with extensions to the side and rear of the listed building, despite not having prior approval from the council.

The local authority issued an enforcement notice in April for a breach of planning control, still under consideration by the planning inspectorate.

James attracted further criticism from neighbours when he was recently given the go-ahead for turning garden areas at the rear and front of his pub into patios, despite officers recommending refusal on the basis it would be detrimental to the character of the conservation area.

As a result of all these changes, he had to apply for a variation to the current licence, which was attached to the previous layout.

Four objectors, representing local residents, spoke at a licensing hearing last Thursday (18).

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But, rejecting their concerns about noise, James told the hearing that, “all external doors are double-glazed. I have installed a four-inch-thick sound insulating fence above the wall to the rear garden where it bounds College Street.

“This extends up to eight feet high and will reflect and absorb sound.”

James said the pub would be a “high quality wine bar, aimed at professionals” with classical and soft music played during the day, and there would not be any music with a heavy bass.

But objectors told the hearing, which was attended by 13 residents, that neighbours would suffer as the scale of the premises had “grown like topsy in a residential area”.

The sub-committee then decided to turn down the application, explaining the extensions had brought the building closer to homes, and hence likely to increase noise experienced by residents.

In their decision councillors added: “The applicant will not be able to promote the licensing objective of Prevention of Public Nuisance if he operates under the new plan.”

After the hearing Robert Pankhurst, of the Abbey Precincts Residents Association, said the decision was “incredibly dramatic” as locals were expecting approval of the variation.

He added: “There was no cheering, just a stunned silence as we all wondered if we had heard it correctly.

“Finally a council decision has recognised that continuous expansion of the night-time entertainment economy has to be balanced against the needs of residents in the city.”

Chairman of the sub-committee Cllr Salih Gaygusuz said that James was told he had 21 days to appeal against the decision at Watford Magistrates’ Court.