Saturday, 25 April 2009

A nuisance or an asset?

The old British Legion club, which has a rich and successful history, has sadly been empty for a couple of years. After going through a troubled period it had to close and was left unused. Now it has been bought up by a local couple who want to use part of the downstairs for drinking, dancing and music. Not surprisingly they have applied for a licence for these activities, until 11.00 pm seven days a week, with the premises closing at midnight.

Harmless enough, you might well think. Certainly a premises like a club, especially with an entrance at the back, could be an asset to the area and a good use for this building, and should not cause any more disturbance to residents than the Legion did in the past.

However, some are understandably concerned that even these relatively modest opening hours seven nights a week could cause the all too frequent alcohol related problems we see elsewhere in Abbeygate ward. They also worry that once granted the premises could be sold or leased to a less considerate landlord.

What is interesting to me is that this will be the first case of a licence application being submitted since the instigation of the Special Licensing Policy introduced by me and Cllr Richard Rout. This means that the applicants will have to demonstrate that their application will not cause disturbance to local residents, rather than the residents having to prove it will.

This must be a fairer way of dealing with such applications, and I hope common sense will prevail when the Licensing sub-committee meet - probably at their May 27th meeting @ 10am in West Suffolk House.

As ever - watch this space.


Bury Boy said...

Iam all for granting the application.

The basis being that a club, and public bar existed at the site well before, most of the local residents purchased their homes.
The area is within the town grid, and likly to be used for such events in the future, it would be unreasonable to turn it down.
There are two take aways, and a public house close by, and other event clubs in st andrews street, additional people at this venue are unlikly to add to the general street noise, IF the opening times are aligned. ( no late night drinking ).
What esle did locals expect the landlords to do with a ex club of that size.
sheltered housing for re forming drug addicts maybe?
The building always had a 90% chance of being a commercial enterprise.
A condition could be that ALL traffic, must enter and leave via St Andrews street.
Clauses can be added to any future sale.

To me it sounds like a venture for losing a lot of money, but thats up to the new folk.

Just dont make it a political points scoring event.

Councillor Paul Farmer said...

BB - Good to have your comments as always, much of which I agree with.

I of course have no more say in this than you do, since the licensing laws now do not take into account the local members' views, either in writing or at the meeting - which I can attend but not address.

Perhaps that prevents it becoming 'political'?

Penelope Harding said...

Ref: the licence application for the Hunter club, in the former British Legion Building in Guildhall Street.

I could not agree more with “Bury Boy”

I work for Andrew and Nicola Hunter as their accountant.

How anyone, with the slightest business knowledge, could think that running this interesting old building as a “Pub”, or traditional “Night Club” (with all of their associated problems) could be a profitable venture or be “sold on” as such is beyond me. Bury St Edmunds is already well served with this type of establishment and competition is intense, experienced landlords are having difficulty making profits and this would be no different.

Mr & Mrs Hunter have lived for many years in Guildhall Street, and have raised their family there. They are the proprietors of a number of local businesses, employing over 100 people. They have already invested many thousands pounds in restoring this building and currently it is used as a training and rest/social facility for employed staff, which makes good business sense and saves expenditure elsewhere.

They feel that the capacity of the building could lend itself to a number of other activities (some, hopefully profit making)

Some of the activities planned for the building include:

Salsa Dancing Classes
Exercise Classes
French Café
Art/Craft Classes
RBL Club night
Mother and Toddler groups
After School Study Clubs
Conferencing facilities

Most of these activities would be enhanced by the ability to enjoy a glass of wine or beer at the end of the evening whilst socialising with other participants.

In short, local people having fun, no matter what their age or interest!

It saddens me that you express your interest as:

“ What is interesting to me is that this will be the first case of a licence application being submitted since the instigation of the Special Licensing Policy introduced by me and Cllr Richard Rout. This means that the applicants will have to demonstrate that their application will not cause disturbance to local residents, rather than the residents having to prove it will.”

Rather than talking to Andrew and Nicola to establish what their plans were. I think that this does make it “Political” as it seems that your interest is only in proving your point (in the hope of re-election) and not in the wider interest of the community.

I am sure, that local homeowners would rather that this very dilapidated building were to be restored and put to good use, rather than left to rot, or worse yet being taken over by squatters, decreasing the value of their homes and their quality of life.

I feel that it would be very sad if Mr & Mrs Hunters plans to use the building for the purpose of providing fun activities for local people were to be curtailed by a scaremongering few who had not taken the trouble to understand the wider picture.

I too, hope common sense will prevail when the Licensing sub-committee meet

Councillor Paul Farmer said...

Thanks for such a comprehensive comment Penelope, but I am sorry that you seem to feel so cynical about my 'interest'. I rather thought my post and comment above were fairly balanced.

I think you may have misunderstood me. I have not expressed an opinion for or against this application, but I cannot ignore the concerns which have been brought to me (however unreasonable you may think they are)by some who live very close.

I do not have any say in the matter, as explained already. But I am indeed interested to see how the new policy will operate, and I expect there to be much interest from the wider community.

The Special Area Policy is designed to shift onto the applicant the onus of demonstrating that a licence is benign, rather than the objector having to prove its potential harm. If the Hunters are going to run the club in the way you indicate, I do not see that they need to worry about explaining this at the hearing. If they succeed they will be successful.

It is sad that you think I have blown this up in some way for political gain. I can assure you that there are those like you who disagree with my interest in the licensing laws, and those who think I am not interested enough. This is not something that makes local politicians popular - what does?.

I have long learned that if a councillor does something to help one person, then he upsets at least one other. You can't win!

Anonymous said...

I support the Hunters!

I think this couple should be applauded for investing their time, money and effort in resurrecting this tired old building and trying to turn it into a vibrant and much needed asset to the town. More power to the people who can and do, not to those who don’t and won’t!

Alcohol has been drunk on these premises for as long as I can remember. The planning consent is for use as licensed premises. What else are they meant to do with the place! Public Houses are part of the history and fabric of the town. Bury is famous the country’ smallest pub and for one of the largest breweries. Bury residents have lived cheek by jowl with pubs since the 12th century.

People who chose to live in the town centre must recognise that they cannot have it both ways. Yes, they are near to the shops, the restaurants, the Abbey Gardens, the Cathedral and many other public facilities that the general Bury tax payer has helped fund, but they also have to recognise that living in the town centre means they are near to pubs and nightclubs. It is unrealistic to expect pubs and clubs to set up away from the town centre. Pubs are meeting places and so the town centre is the right place for them. I’m sure there is noise and disturbance from time to time, there is in my road too, but come on, Bury is generally very a quiet town.

Looking at the activities intended for this premises there are a lot more people who are likely to benefit from it than the few neighbours who want to complain. It seems to me even the majority of immediate neighbours have no objection. Residents have every right to have their voices heard, but the decision makers should also consider the silent majority who want and appreciate facilities like this.

As a councillor you should represent those voters too, not just the vociferous minority in your ward. Seems to me this Policy was forced through with a fair degree of horse trading, to the overall detriment of the town, just to win a few extra votes in a particular ward.

This is going to be an interesting test of the new Policy but there are some fundamental flaws in it. I do not think for a moment that this place is going to cause any significant problems for anyone, but having said that how is anyone expected to PROVE what is or is not going to happen in the future? It is like being found guilty - before any crime has been committed - unless proven innocent. And what level of proof is required? Is it the balance of probability, is it beyond reasonable doubt or is it absolute proof? Seems to me this policy is either badly written, or it is an attempt to slap a ban on new pubs and clubs through the backdoor.

As a councillor you cannot have it both ways either. You cannot say on one hand that this is fair, balanced and non-political and then on the other hand issue press released with headlines such as Councillors say: "no more bars or clubs in Bury town centre - enough is enough”.

Councillor Paul Farmer said...

Thanks for this comment and my apologies for the delay in posting. I am a bit busy at present with elections.

As a councillor I do represent pro-Hunters voters too in Abbeygate, not just the 'vociferous minority'. But as I don't have a say in the decision (see comments above) I am denied the opportunity to represent anyone.

I do not understand why you say the Special Area Policy "was forced through with a fair degree of horse trading". What evidence do you have for that claim? In fact it was approved by the Licensing committee three times over a period of a year, and then by full council, where I wasn't allowed to be present in case I prejudiced the vote (I'm so fierce!).

And how did I "win a few extra votes"? When re-elected to the Town Council all voters knew my attempts then to establish the policy. I won by a landslide, so not just "a few" voters must have agreed with me.

This is indeed going to be an interesting test of the new Policy, which you misundertstand. The onus is now on the applicants to demonstrate that this application and its conditions will not add to the cumulative effect of licences in the designated area.

I don't recall saying "no more bars or clubs in Bury town centre - enough is enough”. The Special Policy allows for more pubs or bars, providing they do not make things worse for people locally. What then have the Hunters applicants to fear?

Anonymous said...

Concerned at Ruin bar encouraging binge drinking by offering £20 all you can drink nights! All other pubs, bars and clubs are doing their bit to provide a safe drinking environment but not this lot. It will just create more noise, rubbish and sick. Seems to be a lot of moaning about the place generally and this is the newest issue with them. Is it actaully allowed?

Councillor Paul Farmer said...

I think it is alllowed, but the government may be preparing powers for councils to prevent it.