|Members were required to determine an application for variation to Elm Tree Social Club, Bishopton Road West, Stockton-On-Tees. |
Members noted that the application was for a variation to the existing Club Premise Certificate as follows:-
- To extend the terminal hour for the supply of alcohol in the Pavilion Bar from 21:00 to 23:00, Monday to Sunday
- To reinstate the opening hours to 11:00 until 23:30, Monday to Sunday
- To amend the Public Nuisance condition 4 to permit the consumption of alcohol in the external area to 23:00, Monday to Sunday
As a preliminary issue, Mr Vaines, on behalf of the Applicant, raised two objections regarding the application. The first related to an article in the Northern Echo and the second related to the inclusion of the Planning Inspectorates Appeal Decision. Mr Vaines was of the view that the Committee ought not give any weight to the article in the Northern Echo if they had, indeed, seen it. He submitted that it was misleading in terms of comments reportedly made by Environmental Health. Mr Vaines also submitted that the Appeal Decision ought to have been removed from the papers as it had no relevance on the decision of the Committee.
Members noted the comments and proceeded accordingly.
Mr Vaines pointed out that the Elm Tree Social Club was a private members club. Members must be proposed, seconded and adhere to the Clubs rules of membership. The public could not simply walk in off the street for a drink (alcoholic or otherwise). The average age of members was 50 years.
Mr Vaines acknowledged that there had been previous applications for the sale of alcohol in the Pavilion Bar and the consumption of alcohol in the external area but the current terminal hours were proposed by the Applicant not imposed or agreed as a compromise as suggested by Cllr Mrs Cherrett. In this regard, Mr Vaines produced a council minute 18/12 to support his submission.
Mr Vaines made the point that, at the last Committee hearing, residents were invited to contact the Club Secretary directly regarding any complaints or concerns they may have. The Applicant believed it was a good neighbour and was unable to address complaints if not made aware of them. Mr Vaines submitted that the alleged complaint by Mr Alan Farley about people allegedly urinating against his fence was not to be given any credence as there was no evidence of this. Indeed, the Club toilets were readily accessible inside the Club and CCTV installed externally covers boundary fences. There were also notices displayed to make members/guests aware of the need to be considerate to neighbouring properties.
Cllr Mrs Cherrett clarified that she was not representing Mr Farley and was, therefore, unable to answer questions about this. Cllr Mrs Cherrett also confirmed that she had received no complaints about the supply of alcohol in the Pavilion Bar or about the consumption of alcohol in the external area from residents since 2012.
Mr Hart, on behalf of the Club, clarified that a complaints log was maintained by the Club. However, the Club had not received any complaints from the interested parties or other residents until the week before the hearing, when one was received from Mr Farley, who was not in attendance. This related to an alleged incident of shouting which had occurred some five days earlier. Mr Hart explained that he did check the CCTV footage as soon as this was reported but there was nothing showing on the CCTV at the alleged time of the incident - 23:50. Mr Hart also queried why it had taken Mr Farley five days to report the alleged incident.
With reference to the proposed variation regarding the extension of terminal hour for the supply of alcohol from the Pavilion Bar, Mr Snowdon, Environmental Health, was of the view that a compromise was reached outside of the hearing on the last occasion. This related to the current terminal hour (21:00) and was agreed to suit the needs of the club and residents. Mr Vaines refuted this and urged Members to refer to the Council Minute 18/12 as stated above.
Mr Snowdon submitted that there was a lack of insulation within the roof structure of the Pavilion Bar, and this was compounded by the close proximity to residents boundary fences. Mr Snowdon believed that it was a sensitive period between 21:00 and 23:00 when children are going to bed and this was the main reason for the objection. However, Mr Vaines wished to point out that the application was not about regulated entertainment and, in any event, the deregulatory changes to The Licensing Act 2003 meant that licence permission was not required for this activity during the period 08:00 until 23:00.
Environmental Health accepted that variation regarding the opening hours was simply administrative and had no objection to it.
For clarity, Mr Snowdon accepted that Environmental Health had received no complaints regarding noise related to smoking and drinking from either the Pavilion Bar or the external area.
Cllr Mrs Cherrett was representing seven properties (including Mr Hunter, 26 Biddick Close who had authorised Cllr Mrs Cherrett to act on his behalf through notification to Democratic Services). She indicated that residents were not suggesting that the club was operating illegally but this was the fourth application in three years and residents are fed up.
Cllr Mrs Cherrett explained that the absence of complaints was due to the fact that the majority of residents were elderly and some do not feel it is worth complaining. Cllr Mrs Cherrett submitted that residents back gardens are separated by no more than a fence and residents cannot open their windows due to noise and smoke.
One interested party, in particular, Mr Hunter, feared that his two young children would not be able to sleep if the hours are extended as requested and had real concerns about the impact of passive smoking.
The interested parties were fearful that the proposed extension to the hours for the supply of alcohol in the Pavilion Bar and for consumption of alcohol in the external area would make the premise more attractive to external hirers. In consequence, this would compound the problems that residents are already experiencing.
Members had regard to the written evidence which had been circulated prior to the hearing in addition to the oral evidence given and submissions made at the hearing. The Committee also had regard to the statutory guidance issued under Section 182 of the Licensing Act 2003 and the Councils Licensing Policy.
Members gave weight to the fact that the majority of the residents concerns were based on fears of what might happen rather than evidence of what was happening. There was no evidence that such fears would materialise, or that they could be causally linked to the Applicants premise. Indeed, Members felt that the representations from the interested parties and Environmental Health were weakened by the absence of any recorded complaints. Members also placed great weight on the fact that there had been no representations from the Police.
Members also gave weight to the fact that it was the Applicants interests to build and maintain good relations with residents and responsible bodies. For that reason, the Committee gave weight to the fact that, at the last committee meeting, residents were encouraged to complain directly to the club so appropriate action could be taken.
Members did, however, express concerns about the potential impact of permitting patrons to consume alcohol in the external area after 21:00. The Committee were of the view that, naturally, this may encourage patrons to spend prolonged periods in the external area, within close proximity to the boundary fences, which may directly impact on residents including the elderly and children.