Councillor’s move to avoid ‘bias’ talk
A COUNCILLOR, known for his outspoken views on extended drinking hours, has stepped down from a licensing hearing fearing he may be considered “biased’’.
Paul Farmer, a councillor at St Edmundsbury Borough Council, was due to hear a request for an extension of opening hours at Club Brazilia, Bury St Edmunds, on Thursday.
Luminar Gems Ltd, owners of the night spot on Station Hill, have applied to open until 4.30am on Thursday to Saturday nights.
Cllr Farmer, who represents Abbeygate ward, successfully campaigned for a special licensing policy in December 2008, forcing any new pubs or clubs in the town centre to demonstrate there will be no increase in the combined impact of noise and anti-social behaviour from licences in the area.
He has now pulled out of Thursday’s hearing after advice from the Standards Board. In a written statement, he said: “I am well known for questioning late drinking hours and have particularly spoken up about establishments competing with each other for later and later closing times.
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“I have done so because many of my residents have to put up with the noise and anti-social behaviour of some when leaving these establishments, and they rightly expect me to do something about it.” Cllr Farmer was due to join councillors Les Ager and Allan Jones on the Licensing Act sub committee panel to discuss the application, which has attracted a complaint from one resident who says the extension could make their life a nightmare.
But Cllr Farmer, who last year spoke out against an application by nightclub Deja Vu in Bury to open until 3.30am on Friday and Saturday nights, received guidance from the Standards Board, which advised councillors who have definite views about issues they are making decisions about must be open to alternative arguments, or they may be perceived to be biased.
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“I do not believe ever-later closing times beyond 3am can be good for the town’s residents, and however open-minded I am I cannot imagine being persuaded that they are,” he said.
“It would be foolish to compromise myself or the panel’s decision by pretending otherwise, and if that means I’m thought biased then so be it.”
Membership of the panel is composed on a rota basis and Cllr Farmer said it was pure chance he had been chosen to sit at this particular hearing, which does not involve his ward.
A substitute councillor will now be found to replace him at the hearing.
He added: “It is a sad state of affairs when an elected representative is not allowed to make decisions which represent the views of his electorate, but this will certainly not stop me from supporting those views wherever I can.
“I consider I am perfectly able to be objective and unbiased in such matters, but am concerned about the perception of others – given that I and many of my residents can see no compelling argument for such late hours.”
No-one from either Luminar Gems Ltd or Club Brazilia could be contacted for comment last night.
To view the application, visit www.stedmundsbury.gov.uk