Councils risk losing control of late night noise during World Cup

2013-12-24 16.49.40The EPUK noise committee is concerned at yesterday’s government decision to re-consider a relaxation of licensing laws during the World Cup this summerVice Chair Gareth Hooper sets out the issues.

The coalition government is at odds over licensing. Liberal Democrat Minister of State for the Home Office, Norman Baker, stated that there would be no automatic right to a late license during the World Cup for England games. However, David Cameron overruled him, on Twitter, ordering an immediate rethink – albeit with a view to consulting police, the pub trade and councils.

The Licensing Act already makes provision for temporary events – premises can apply to their local councils for a Temporary Event Notice (TEN). These are occasional circumstances when a licensed premises can hold an event outside of its normal licensing conditions. The Act allows for up to twelve events a year at any one premises. Police and environmental health have the power to reject a Temporary Event Notice (TEN) on any one of the four Licensing Objectives which include nuisance and therefore noise. One England game in question will conclude at approximately 1am on Sunday 15th June. Being the early hours of a Sunday morning, the potential for nuisance during and after the game is significant. For that reason it seems absurd David Cameron has ordered a review into the use of TENs on this occasion.

The Home Office stated that pubs would have to apply for a TEN on an individual basis as the World Cup game was not “exceptional circumstances.” The argument proposed by the British Beer and Pub Association, supported by Andrew Griffiths MP, is that the cost of applying for TENs for would be £738,000 to the detriment of a trade already struggling. What was not mentioned was the potential cost to local councils in dealing with any noise and nuisance issues or of residents in neighbourhoods that might be affected by celebrating (or commiserating) fans following what may well be a prolonged Saturday session.

The sale of alcohol from licensed premises is subject to many Government fiscal policies and these should be considered on their own merits. The Conservative government could introduce other measures to help the pub trade without removing the ability of local authorities to fulfill their duty to protect residents from nuisance. Using local knowledge they are able to judge whether or not a license extension will be problematic – and grant, add conditions or refuse accordingly.

Local decision making was at the heart of Conservative policy. If the Licensing Act and it’s tools are not fit for purpose, then review them in a timely and pragmatic manner. We don’t want to call time on the World Cup – but police, the pub trade and local councils are aware of potential problem areas – so much so they have already published a management guide for the event. We should encourage responsible drinking, not carte blanche removal of local council powers to manage the impacts of licensed premises properly.

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