Residents voice concern over lifting of pub and club laws

WORRIED town centre residents are concerned their quality of life will be further blighted if controversial pub and club rules are lifted.

A “special area” licensing policy was brought in by St Edmundsbury Borough Council in January last year in Bury St Edmunds covering the area bounded by both sides of Abbeygate Street, Guildhall Street, Westgate Street, Crown Street and Angel Hill.

The rules forced licensees wanting to extend their hours or open a new venue to demonstrate their plans would not have a detrimental effect on neighbouring residents and businesses.

But council officers have recommended that the policy, which runs until January next year, should be discontinued due to lack of evidence that the cumulative effect of licensed venues was having a disproportionate impact.

Andrew Hinchley, of the Churchgate Area Association, which represents residents in the Churchgate Street area, said the advice was “extremely disappointing”.

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He said: “I think the special area policy allows the council effectively better scope in which to decide or refuse licensing applications, otherwise without it it would really be an open house for more and more applications to be made for more licensed premises in the centre of town.”

In a letter to the council, association chairman Roderick Sprake said a survey by the group last year, which received 118 responses, showed there were continuing complaints of night-time crime and disorder, antisocial behaviour and noise nuisance.

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He said it proved it was “vital” the policy continued to protect the environment for residents and traders.

Abbeygate ward councillor Paul Farmer, who spearheaded the policy with fellow Abbeygate councillor Richard Rout, said: “Whilst not stifling new businesses it does put the onus on the applicant to ensure necessary measures are taken to control the effects of a new licence.

“That seems common sense to me.”

But Andrew Denny, chairman of Bury St Edmunds Chamber of Commerce & Industry, said the chamber was “very pleased” with the recommendation.

“The bottom line is anything that’s cutting red tape we welcome,” he said.

He said there was enough existing legislation to address the problems, adding how new businesses would be discouraged as a result of the policy.

Also, while sympathising with residents blighted by antisocial behaviour, he said if statistics showed the problems were continuing surely the policy was not helping to improve the situation.

The recommendation is also to set up a licensing forum for the town so residents and businesses can meet with the licensing authority on a regular basis.

It is due to go before the licensing and regulatory committee on Monday , but the final decision will be made by the whole council.

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