Licensing laws 'threaten village halls'

VILLAGE halls at the heart of rural communities could be under threat from new licensing laws which may eventually lead to their closure, concerned residents have warned.

VILLAGE halls at the heart of rural communities could be under threat from new licensing laws which may eventually lead to their closure, concerned residents have warned.

Volunteers who run small village halls said last night the important income generated by serving alcohol would be limited as a result of the much-publicised new legislation introduced last year.

The new laws mean community centres across the region could face an uncertain future due to restrictions allowing them to serve alcoholic drinks on only 15 days each year.

The warning comes as villagers in Boxford, near Sudbury, say their hall faces serious difficulty from the changes, which came into effect in November.


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“The current legislation penalises small communities who rely on village halls for numerous activities and it will be responsible for many of them ceasing to exist,” said David Phillips, chairman of the village hall committee.

“Our hall committee have been obliged to give the drama group just two licences this year, therefore depriving them of income and the hall of a much-needed source of revenue from hire charges.

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“In addition, the atmosphere of events staged will no longer be the same due to the lack of a licensed bar and as such there may be less people willing to support the group by attending their shows.

“All in all, this is a total loss for everyone because a nameless, faceless, mandarin in Whitehall who most probably has never seen the inside of a village hall could not get sensible legislation on the statute books in the first place.”

Edward Kench who maintains the Boxford village newsletter, said: “We have an incredibly active village with 88 organisations and our village hall is very important.

“The bar is a big earner. It will be very difficult to keep it going without the funds from the bar.”

Peter Dow, clerk of Elmswell Parish Council near Bury St Edmunds, said his village was big enough to have a full license - but added that many smaller village halls were suffering.

He also criticised the complexity of the new legislation, which had led to numerous different interpretations by different villages.

“The rules and regulations are as complicated as we feared they would be,” he said. “The whole thing seems to be badly thought out and it is damaging small village halls.”

A spokesman for the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, which are responsible for the legislation, said the Government was aware of the issues facing village halls.

He added that the Government was looking closely at the results of a consultation on the Licensing Act and would discuss it before the summer.

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