Residents face legal bill from brewer

A RETIRED architect who protested against a pub's late opening plans told last night how he feared having to take out a new mortgage on his home after being threatened with legal action by the owner.

A RETIRED architect who protested against a pub's late opening plans told last night how he feared having to take out a new mortgage on his home after being threatened with legal action by the owner.

When brewer Greene King applied last year to extend the opening hours of the Dog and Partridge, in Crown Street, Bury St Edmunds, dozens of residents joined forces to protest.

They challenged the pub's bid to stay open until midnight on Fridays and Saturdays first at the council, and when that failed, at the magistrates' court.

But the group - led by Church Walk-based Simon Harding, 64 - lost both appeals against the change in opening hours, though in April magistrates turned down Greene King's requests for costs.


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The magistrates' decision is now being challenged by the brewing pub chain, which is going to the High Court's costs division to seek £29,000 in costs from the four residents who challenged them in the magistrates' court.

Greene King has defended its action, claiming it merely sought to establish the principal that people should contribute towards the costs of cases they lose in court.

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But the four residents involved fear the brewer's actions might put other concerned home-owners off protesting against licensing changes in the future.

Martin Whitworth, 82, of Crown Street, told how he was left “flabbergasted” when he opened the letter from Greene King.

“The figure is for all the people and the costs and the paperwork involved. We were flabbergasted when we opened the letter.

“If they win, we could have to take out a mortgage on our house. And we don't need that at our age. I am 82 and my wife, Sheila, is 80.”

But Mark Angela, managing director of the Greene King Pub Company, said: “We are not challenging the four people who brought the appeal, but the magistrate's decision not to award costs. We want to establish the principle that people should have to contribute to the costs of cases being heard a second time round.

“Otherwise, if all objectors could appeal without ever having to pay any costs, there is a real threat to the thousands of community pubs across the country. We will not be looking to recover more than the appellants can easily afford.

“When applying for our new licence for the Dog and Partridge, we listened to the concerns of the residents and wider community. We made considerable concessions as a result.

“The Licensing Authority did consider a number of other demands made by local residents but dismissed them. Having already had their say, four people decided to appeal against the council's decision and to insert new demands not included in the original hearing. They went ahead with the appeal in the full knowledge that if it was rejected, given that this was a second time round, there could be cost implications for them.

“We are sensitive to how our pubs should be run in the communities we serve and we are sorry that this dispute has arisen, especially after having spoken to the residents at length during the appeal process.”

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