Council risking its golden goose'

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Related tags: Leisure industry, Planning permission, Town and country planning in the united kingdom

by Richard Matthews Westminster Council has been warned not to kill the goosewhich lays the golden egg by over-regulation of the leisure industry....

by Richard Matthews Westminster Council has been warned not to kill the goosewhich lays the golden egg by over-regulation of the leisure industry. Wetherspoon chairman Tim Martin claimed the council's licensing and planning policy threatened to stifle the local economy through increased bureaucracy and red tape. Martin was giving evidence at a public inquiry into Westminster's Unitary Development Plan, a10-year blueprint for the future growth of the borough. Leisure operators and trade bodies have been highly critical of the council's policy on zonal planning restrictions for pub and leisure developments and a 1am curfew on new entertainment licences. Martin said the tough stance is reminiscent of Birmingham's policy in the 1990s when there was an almost total block on new late-night licences within the city centre. "This policy held Birmingham back economically and it fell behind other cities, notably Manchester and Leeds, and had a lot of catching up to do," he said. "London has always done well economically thanks to the pub and leisure industry and Westminster should not put this at risk through restrictions on opening hours, extra costs and more red tape." Martin said he attended the inquiry to speak up for the leisure industry. Wetherspoon is one of the few operators to give evidence to the inquiry in person although trade bodies, such as the British Beer & Pub Association, the Hospitality Association, Business In Sport & Leisure and the Westminster Licensees' Association have submitted written evidence. They feel Westminster's planning policy should have regard for all stakeholders, residents, workers visitors and businesses and say a fixed closing hour is in direct conflict with Government policy laid out in the new Licensing Bill. Individual operators have also found themselves at odds with the council, mainly due to what they feel are unreasonable PEL conditions. Westminster Council says, however, its record demonstrates a high level of co-operation with the leisure industry. The past 10 years had seen a 40% rise in entertainment use in the West End. "In A3 use, the majority of planning applications have been granted," a spokeswoman said. "It's all evidence that our policies have worked and that we are working with the entertainment industry and not against it.

Related topics: Legislation

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