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Agenda item

Representations in favour of the Application


M Howard, premises owner, explained that the church, which had been purchased in 2011, was mainly used for theatre training purposes and after school activities, Monday to Friday during the day until about 8 pm and 9 am to 2.15 pm Saturdays during term time.  ‘The Venue’ was a supplemental activity to the dance school that provided for selected private events such as weddings and birthday parties for over 21s. These were private events that were never open to the general public.  The venture was a family business, the proceeds of which were needed to help with building maintenance costs as the dance college did not pay enough to meet these.  The licence would be limited to Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights only, and there would be no events on a Friday in term time.  Sunday events were usually parties for young children (ages 3-7).  The events causing issues were on Saturdays only, and these issues had been acknowledged.  There had been problems when first taking over the building, and moves to address parking issues had been met with abuse from residents; since then explaining to patrons that the brick parking area was residents only had been largely successful, however some patrons did not co-operate.  At times, the applicants had found their own parking slots had been taken by others.  For events, a big ‘no parking – residents only’ sign was displayed and manned to prevent unauthorised access.  Events ended at midnight or 1 am, and people leaving were made aware of the problems. Possibly the noise at 3 or 4 am was not caused by use of The Venue but by van unloading after a show elsewhere, three times a year.  The church was well insulated, noise was not as loud as reported, and in future a sound limiter would be used so that actual sound levels could be proved.  The business had no wish to cause people problems.  There had been unpleasant incidents in the past.  The beautiful building, which had always been public when used as a church, had been upgraded with regard to fire safety and monthly checks were done by an outside company.  The Environmental Health department and the police authority had been consulted with regard to events and the DPS had had personal licence training.  The hours applied for had been amended to end at midnight instead of 1 am. After that time, only the event manager and cleaners would be on the premises, and most clearing up was done next day.  The residents of Church Walk had been given opportunities to meet the applicant to discuss their concerns but these had not been fully taken up; those that had attended had appeared to be content with the application. 


In response to questions from the Panel, the applicants made the following points:


Possible reduction in hours: the hours applied for had already been reduced to a 12 midnight event finish.  Wedding organisers regularly asked for a 2 am or 3 am finish, this was always refused and the licence adhered to.  The event manager was at every event and would be happy to end at midnight.  There were no children-only parties; most were family-oriented such as Bar Mitzvahs, and usually ended at 10 pm;


Smoking area: management tried to restrict smokers to the space in front of the building onto the High Street, where ashtrays were provided, and in summer patio furniture would be placed there to encourage its use.  It was admitted that some patrons went to the car park, as soon as this was noticed, for example boys playing, they were told to move away;


CCTV: the installation of CCTV both inside and out had been discussed and was under serious consideration.  It had not been included in the application as there were issues of time and cost, the building was Grade 2 listed, and there were concerns that external CCTV might give the impression that something inside was being guarded;


Sound limiting equipment: the applicants would be happy to have the installation of sound limiting equipment as a condition of any licence granted;


Allegations of bullying:  residents’ allegations of being bullied were unfounded.  There may have been a perception of intimidation because the Event Manager was a very tall young man however he was a ‘gentle giant’ and the applicants had been taken to their limit by the abuse they had received from some residents.  Attempts had been made to monitor the parking using an external company, however the residents had given the company a plan of the parking area that had included the applicants’ land.  When the correct plan had been received, it had revealed that most of the penalties had been given for parking on church premises, not the residents’ area.  The responses of some residents to parking problems had been disproportionate and unhelpful.  Issues were becoming less frequent, and efforts were being made to create more parking spaces to help alleviate the problems;


Provision of portable car park barrier for evening events:  the applicants realised that, as in the past church attendances had dwindled and the church had then been empty, the increase in activity due to the business would have been a shock to residents.  The applicants had tried to meet with residents or the management company to suggest a barrier to the car park, however this had not been pursued because no positive response had been received.  Currently a stand-alone notice board was used regardless of the size of the event, which was manned for large events.  They would be happy to provide bollards, but residents might not agree. The applicants would accept a condition to this effect on any licence granted;