Licensing Forum Meeting

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Summary:

  • In response to the last Civic Forum meeting about licensing planning, use A3 now differentiates between pubs, restaurants and nightclubs.
  • 2 Cumulative Impact Zones have been defined – the first in Wimbledon Town Centre, and the second in Wimbledon Village. This was in response to public pressure.
  • The Licensing Act automatically entitles existing license-holders to a license under the new regulations.
  • In the Cumulative Impact Zone, existing license-holders are also entitled to transfer their license to the new regulations, unless there is proof that there is a problem.
  • It is important that residents report problems, as up-to-date evidence of problems is needed for a license application to be turned down.
  • Licenses can only be refused under 4 criteria: safety, nuisance, crime & disorder and the prevention of harm to children.
  • New Police Pro-active teams started patrolling Wimbledon Town Centre on 11th March. The teams, consisting of 2 sergeants and 8 constables, work from 6pm to 6am on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. They visit licensed premises and issue fixed-penalty notices for anti-social behaviour.
  • Beat officers are to be issued with mobile phones so that members of the public can contact them. The numbers will be available on the police website and published in the local Guardian in the next week or two.
  • Supt Dobson explained that the police have powers to close licensed premises if there is violence either taking place or impending. If the police use that power the license is automatically revoked.
  • Under the Licensing Act, the police are notified of any license application and can prevent a license being issued if they have current evidence of problems with that establishment. Therefore it is important that people report any problems.

We agreed to hold another forum on this subject in early 2006 once the new arrangements are in force.

Full Minutes of the Meeting

Speakers: Superintendent Peter Dobson, Wimbledon Police
Richard Nash – Licensing Manager, London Borough of Merton
Councillor Martin Whelton – Chair, Merton Licensing Committee

Chair: Marcus Beale

Attendance: Mike Pollard, St George’s Hospital & CAMRA member; John Waller, resident; John Crossman; Liz Webber, resident; Tony Tsoukkas, Civic Forum; Robert Ridge, resident; Cllr Peter Southgate, Merton Park Residents Assoc; Caroline Maddick-Pengelly, Chairman Homefield Road Residents Assoc & WURA committee member.

Peter Dobson
Superintendent Peter Dobson gave some background on the Police view. He noted that the police are aware that the ‘tone’ of the area is influenced by the evening activities taking place. The Licensing Act, however, limits what can be done to influence these activities.

The Act defines ‘grandfather rights’ for licensees – that is, provided there is no current evidence of problems associated with a particular establishment, a new license must be issued to them under the new regime. Home Office research shows that the majority of violent offences are linked to alcohol or drug use. Police research across the Borough shows that such offences account for 80% of offences in Wimbledon Town Centre. The Police are putting resources into dealing with this now, well ahead of the transfer of licensing responsibility to the Local Authority.

On Friday 11th March the new Police Pro-active team started operating in Wimbledon Town Centre. The team consists of 2 Sergeants and 8 constables who will work from 6pm to 6am every Thursday, Friday and Saturday night. The team will visit licensed premises, ensuring that the terms of their license are being adhered to e.g. door staff present, and arresting people exhibiting anti-social behaviour. Combined with this there will be a daytime team, consisting of 1 sergeant and 2 constables, who will engage with the daytime economy, providing uniformed visibility and focusing on issues such as shop-lifting. These teams should be fully staffed by the summer and will work in co-operation with British Transport Police.

Peter Dobson plans that the message which will be communicated to the community is that under-age drinking and anti-social behaviour will be dealt with by police, and that visitors to Wimbledon will be aware that there is a uniformed police presence. He noted that the best judgement is quick judgement and therefore the police will be handing out fixed penalty notices for disorder which he feels have more impact that waiting 18 months for an offence to go to court.

Peter Dobson explained that the police have powers to close licensed premises if there is violence either taking place or impending. If the police use that power the license is automatically revoked. Recently he visited Yate’s in Wimbledon and warned them that any further problems would result in their closure. Since then there have been no reports of trouble at Yates, and Peter Dobson sees this as an indication that the licensees take note of police warnings. The police can also ask for a review of a license, which will result in either the license being revoked or clauses being added.

Under the Licensing Act, the police are notified of any license application and can prevent a license being issued if they have current evidence of problems with that establishment. Therefore it is important that people report any problems. A resident noted that it is difficult to get through to the police station on the phone. Peter Dobson noted that a new call centre, ‘C3I’, will be in operation from August 2006, but in the meantime beat officers for each ward are being issued with mobile phones and the numbers will be available on the police website and published in the local Guardian in the next week or two.

Peter Dobson went on to speak about the need for increased education on the problems of alcohol and drugs, and noted that the police are working in conjunction with the Drugs & alcohol Reduction Team. This team is visiting licensed premises and educating the staff there on issues such as proof of age.

Richard Nash
Richard Nash addressed the key points raised at the Civic Forum meeting held on 21st November 2003 about Licensing:

  • for license applications, planning use A3 now differentiates between pubs, restaurants and nightclubs
  • ‘No more pubs in Wimbledon’: Under the Licensing Act it is not possible for the authority to take away a license, although it is possible to refuse a new license or modifications to an existing license in some circumstances.
  • ‘Tax on pubs to resource policing’: taxes can only be levied by central government. However, the leisure industry considers that it is taxed heavily already, and it is an important part of the country’s economy.
  • ‘Rules for granting of late licenses’: the Cumulative Impact Zone (CIZ) will provide the facility to do this. Mr Nash explained that the CIZ was first implemented in Soho as an area where too many licensed premises are concentrated in a small area. A high court judge subsequently ruled that local authorities could create CIZs and about 7 have done so – mostly in inner London. Merton has created 2 CIZs, one in Wimbledon Town Centre and one in Wimbledon Village. In a CIZ licenses will still be granted to existing premises, either as a conversion to the new arrangements or as a variation on an existing license, unless there is a valid objection. A resident noted that there are 4 criteria which must be covered for a license to be issued:
  • safety
  • nuisance
  • crime & disorder
  • the prevention of harm to children.

Any objection to a license application needs to be on the basis of one or more of these criteria and must be supported by substantive evidence. Members of the residents associations in Wimbledon village continue to keep diaries of all problems of nuisance from local pubs as these can be used as evidence.
In the situation where a new license is being applied for, there is no history for the police to refer to. However, the 4 criteria are still valid in a CIZ and the argument can be put forward that existing problems will be exacerbated. There is a presumption against new licenses in a CIZ.

Martin Whelton
Councillor Martin Whelton is the Chair of the Licensing Committee, responsible for producing Merton’s Licensing Policy. The Licensing Committee comprises 15 councillors and of these, 3 members will meet to decide each license application. Any appeals will also be considered by 3 members but applicants can then refer to the magistrates court if they wish to appeal further. Martin Whelton noted that the residents associations had been very vocal in the consultation period and this had been a contributory factor in deciding to establish CIZs in Wimbledon town centre and Wimbledon Village. Martin Whelton also advised that the Licensing Policy will be reviewed on an annual basis.

Following the speakers, there was further discussion, the key points from which follow:

  • Anti-social behaviour is directly related to alcohol intake. alcohol is relatively cheap and young people have a lot of disposable income.
  • It would be possible for excise duty to be increased. However, this might just have the effect of increasing the illegal import of much cheaper alcohol from Europe.
  • Can licensed premises be forced to pay to clear up mess? This would be difficult to apply in law, although the Police would welcome it.
  • The problem is ‘our’ problem – it is shared by the whole community and no one body can resolve the problem alone.
  • There is an increasing awareness of the problem of alcohol in many areas, including the government. The problem is being addressed to an extent e.g. there are fewer ‘Happy Hours’ now.
  • Perhaps the pub companies can see writing on the wall – Yates Wine Bar is currently planning a re-fit and applying to alter their license with the intention of serving more food and attracting an older clientele.

We agreed to hold another forum on this subject in early 2006 once the new arrangements are in force.

Note by EW 29 Mar 05

Licensing applications as at 7 August 2009 are on the attached document. Note House Bar are applying for extended opening until 2.30 am on Fridays and Saturdays. Representations should be made to LB Merton before 28 August – if you wish to comment on this.

Please find attached lists of the current premises/club and gambling licensing applications.
Merton Council Licensing.

Licensing Section
London Borough of Merton
14th Floor
Merton Civic Centre
London Road
Morden
SM4 5DX

www.merton.gov.uk/licensing
020 8545 3969

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