Posted: Tuesday, 8 December 2015 @ 11:43
When it comes to noise, pubs are a bit like airports. For both, noise is an ever present issue, and it is always surprising how often people move next to long present airports and pubs, and then complain about the noise.
Another annoying aspect for operators of both establishments (and night clubs and other music venues) is the new development, particularly of residential property, right next door to the long established airport or pub. The new occupants invariably complain against the noise, but it is perhaps more serious for the pub operator. Noise complaints can and usually do result in a review of the Premises Licence, with restrictions involved.
This issue has recently hit the trade news concerning operators of a pub in Birmingham. The pub has an attractive and long established beer garden which is apparently vital to the commercial success, and survival, of the pub. To their great concern, a planning application has been submitted for a new residential development right next door. They rightly foresee huge problems ahead if the application is granted. As night follows day the occupants will complain about noise from the beer garden, and will seek a review or voluntary restrictions, which will cause considerable damage to the finances of the pub.
One of the main complaints about the Licensing Act 2003, which has just passed its 10th anniversary in force, is that too much power has been given to local residents to complain. Often pubs and other operations have suffered at the hands of just one consistent complainant, with licensing committees quick to impose conditions or restrict the licence to the detriment of the pub operator.
So what should a licensee do if they are faced with a residential operator next door? Like the pub in Birmingham, they should oppose the planning application, with the support of the landlord if it is a tenanted operation. Expert advice from a planning professional should be sought at the earliest opportunity, to hopefully see off the application or at least ensure that planning conditions are imposed which will minimise the possibility of noise nuisance. If the application is granted unopposed it will probably be too late to do anything about it.
Back in January 2014 I blogged about a long established Kent pub which had its licence reviewed, and conditions imposed, restricting the use of its patio. There have been many other instances since then of action taken in similar circumstances.
Anyone who carries out a licensing activity must do so in a way which does not undermine the licensing objectives. In a similar way all licensing authorities must carry out their duties with a view to promoting the licensing objectives. The licensing authorities have their hands tied to some extent.
The Kent publican complained that he had been using the patio for many years. That is not the point. If its use is disturbing neighbours then there was always the risk that unless he did something about it the licensing authority would on a review application impose a condition restricting its use. The problems have increased since the smoking ban, but they can be addressed by limiting the hours of use and/or setting a noise limit with a requirement to steward the areas and take noise readings. It is also possible that the local environmental health officers will become involved, and they are required to investigate complaints between 11 pm and 7 am and can issue written warnings or fixed penalty notices.
I strongly advise that all outside areas are checked regularly by staff, and it is very important to establish good relations with neighbours through regular contact to identify and resolve issues before they blow up into costly proceedings. But most important of all, be alert to any planning applications in the vicinity and take early expert advice.
Licensing Law Specialist
Tel: 0845 003 5639
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