Select Committee on Delegated Powers and Deregulation Ninth Report

Letter from the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea

Consultation on Licensing Hours for Restaurants

This represents the Council's response to the consultation paper and the proposal to amend the Licensing Act 1964 by removing the requirement for restaurants to obtain supper hour certificates and the need to provide entertainment for extended hours orders. The Council is firmly opposed to any proposal that relaxes the current regime. Any relaxation will have a severe and marked impact on the quality of life for the Royal Borough's residents.

There are over 1,400 licensed premises within the Royal Borough, with over 440 having supper hours certificates and another 120 having extended hours orders or special hours certificates. At present, local residents experience a great amount of disturbance from the emergence of customers from premises particularly after midnight. If the proposals were implemented there is a potential for at least 500 restaurants in the Royal Borough applying to serve alcohol until 1.00am.

Noise emanating from inside premises such as restaurants and bars can cause disturbance. Where the Council has experienced disturbance of this nature the environmental protection procedures have been used effectively.

However, the real intrusion to residents' well-being is the noise that occurs as patrons leave premises with car doors slamming, taxis arriving and departing together with anti-social behaviour that unfortunately can accompany late night and early morning activity involving the consumption of alcohol.

Government Departments still appear to persist in maintaining such noise and disturbance can be tackled by the application of environmental protection legislation. This cannot and does not in practice address problems occurring in Royal Borough streets shortly before, during and after closing times. With reductions in ambient noise levels after 11.30pm such disturbance becomes even more intrusive to sleepers. It is simply not possible in areas where restaurants, bars and residential premises are concentrated and mixed together to determine with sufficient reliability to satisfy the tests applied in the Courts which business is the culprit.

In this connection the presumption underlying the paper, that the abolition of the requirement to provide entertainment would lessen disturbance for residents, is misconceived.

The Council's experience is that attempts to address noise problems occurring outside premises is time-consuming and costly, with little prospect of success. The Council has to be dependant on residents' evidence and this can impose both irritating and frightening burdens on them. There would not be many citizens who would face the prospect of giving evidence in court without some misgivings and the demands of whole days away from work for someone in employment may just be too much. The Council and its residents firmly believe that to ensure quality of life and well-being there is simply no substitute to reasonable closing times.

That means 11.00pm for public houses, midnight at the latest for restaurants with only places providing bona fide entertainment staying open after that.

There are compelling reasons for any relaxation proposal concerning licensing to be left until after the presentation and consideration of the White Paper. Ministers undertook to Parliament that the Deregulation and Contracting Out Act 1994 procedures would only be used for uncontroversial matters. These proposals are controversial for large numbers of residents here many of whom have sent me copies of their representations to you.

The Council would welcome an opportunity to meet with the Minister or with officials to explain further the deep-rooted and serious concerns that exist.

Alun Phillips LLB
Director of Legal Services Kensington and Chelsea Borough

27 January 2000

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