Peer's fears over 24-hour licensing laws

VILLAGERS have been urged to fight for the peace and quiet of rural life after it emerged nine out of 10 pubs were bidding to extend their opening hours.

VILLAGERS have been urged to fight for the peace and quiet of rural life after it emerged nine out of 10 pubs were bidding to extend their opening hours.

Lord Phillips of Sudbury said rural dwellers should keep "a diary of disruption" caused by pubs staying open into the night under new licensing laws – and make their complaints heard if their peace was being disturbed.

He spoke out as the British Beer and Pub Association estimated that 90% of pubs wanted longer opening hours, with most applying for closing times at midnight or 1am.

Lord Phillips described peace and tranquillity as "the golden virtue" of East Anglia's rural life and said it would be under threat when the new act comes into force in November.

The Liberal Democrat peer said the real problem would be the noise of people visiting and leaving pubs into the night, which police could not act upon as it would not be an offence, and advised communities to log any disruptive effects of the new laws.

"I would suggest each parish council should appoint someone as a watchdog of the new licensing regime in their village," he said.

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"They should keep a diary of ill effects then the parish council should take up the cudgels with the landlord and, if that does not work, then take up the cudgels with the licensing authorities and the Government by working with their MPs."

Lord Phillips had proposed an amendment to the act, which, he said, would have given local residents the power to argue to licensing authorities that unlimited drinking would unreasonably damage their amenity.

He said: "Now local communities are at the mercy of local landlords and their best chance, frankly, is the local landlords having due regard to the wishes and needs of the local community."

Should there be disruption, Lord Phillips pledged to press for an emergency amendment to the Licensing Act 2003.

But he said: "If these fears prove to be well-founded I think there is going to be a real chance to get an amendment but you are talking years, not months, and in the meantime the nature of villages can change."

Hundreds of pubs across the region had submitted their new licensing applications by Saturday's deadline, but many failed to meet the cut-off date – meaning they could face temporary closure when the new laws come into effect.

From November 24, all businesses serving alcohol, putting on public entertainment or serving food through the night require a new licence.

Many licensing authorities said the response had been "very disappointing" and a quarter of the businesses nationwide were thought to have missed the deadline.

They now face a lengthy new application process of they will face prosecution if they continue to trade in November.

The Department of Culture Media and Sport said the new act had been brought in to modernise the UK's outdated licensing laws and cut bureaucracy.

It will also allow businesses to extend licensing hours and potentially sell alcohol 24 hours a day.

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