Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill

Memorandum submitted by Gustav MacLeod (PR 23)

Introduction:

I am a resident in rural North Northumberland noted for its beauty and quietness. I am writing due to the experience of recently having to try and address the intrusion of noise from a Hall used for weddings and conferences next door to my house which has been developed over the past few years. I wish to contribute to the amendments in the Licensing Act 2003 to assist with controlling noise nuisance and giving communities greater say in licensing decisions.

Summary

Licensing of premises do not protect individuals or meet the Human Rights Act. Premises Licence should be negotiated with local individuals and residents before being granted.

Owners should be responsible for any noise and disturbance. If there is concern locally the local council should require them to prove to the police and environmental services that they comply with regulations.

Government legislation at present unwittingly supports the proliferation of noise and anti-social behaviour and puts the onus on the law abiding individuals to be responsible for proving that the owners providing the activities are creating unacceptable conditions for living nearby. There should be responsibility of staff to be on site at all times and the site not able to be re-designated as a holiday let outside designated licensed hours.

There should be a joining up of any licensing of premises or planning to gain assessment of the whole effect of any operator or inhabitant. A regular review mechanism needs to be incorporated and licences not granted in perpetuity.

1.1 I refer to the European Convention on Human Rights and the Human Rights Act 1998 Part 11 The First Protocol; Article 1 Protection of Property:

Every natural or legal person is entitled to the peaceful enjoyment of his possessions. ……’

I had moved to an old farmhouse in Northumberland 11 years ago and it was very quiet and peaceful. An old Hall was developed into a venue for weddings and conferences with the appropriate Local Council consultation five years ago. The local residents gave their blessing to the Hall being used for such purposes thinking that a request for the licence of performance of live music, recorded music, for dancing and the sale of alcohol would take place on Saturdays. A licence was issued authorising the carrying out of licensable activities for every day of the week inside or outside from 10 a.m. to midnight. There is no time limit on the licence and therefore no opportunity for review by the local people. The extent of the licence hours was not communicated to local residents either during or after the consultation period. A blanket licence covering these hours and extending to 7 days a week would appear to be the norm for similar premises within the Northumberland County area.

Once the Licence has been granted it is almost impossible to change it. I would seek much clearer information of the proposals from the owners and the provision for negotiation with anyone to be affected by any change in activities which will cause noise or disturbance. Owners should be responsible for any noise and disturbance. If there was to be concern locally. I would suggest the local council should require them to prove to the police and/or environmental services that they comply with regulations.

1.2 Under section 17 of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 (as amended) every local authority when exercising its functions, such as licensing, must do all to prevent

a) crime and disorder in its area (including anti-social behaviour and other behaviour affecting the local environment, and

b) the misuse of drugs, alcohol and other substances in its area. Operators of licensed premises have to comply with other legislative controls such as planning and environmental health.

The owners of the venue have built houses to accommodate more guests in the last year. Noise from the activities-music and broadcasting-at the Hall has intruded considerably over the local area up until midnight. After midnight the staff vacate the site and the guests can party on at their own discretion. There is no control of the guests and it is left up to the local residents to report any disturbances. There are considerable risks to the guests and building and a recent fire after a particularly noisy party did burn down part of the building.

This context demonstrates that the Government legislation at present unwittingly supports the proliferation of noise and anti-social behaviour and puts the onus on the law abiding individuals to be responsible for proving that the owners providing the activities are creating unacceptable conditions for living nearby. There should be responsibility of staff to be on site at all times and the site not able to be re-designated as a holiday let once the activities are completed. I would suggest that there is a review of the licence on a biannual basis to ensure that any changes in circumstances are taken into account.

1.3 The planning application for the increase in accommodation was not treated as part of the Premises Licence since the build was on a next door site and not included as part of the same premises as the Hall. There is no joining up of the legislative parts to gain assessment of the whole effect of operations taking place by a developer or inhabitant.

January 2011