Westminster loses face - and cash

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Westminster city council, London, West end of london

Westminster City Council, it seems, will go to any lengths to defend its "core hours" policy for stress areas in London - even at great expense to...

Westminster City Council, it seems, will go to any lengths to defend its "core hours" policy for stress areas in London - even at great expense to its own council-tax payers.

The appeal hearing for the extremely upmarket night club Movida took a total of 11 days in front of the magistrates' court (on this occasion taken by a very switched-on district judge). The matter went to appeal, simply because Westminster did not bother to deal with the original variation application in the allotted time of two months given by the Act, so it was deemed to be rejected.

During the course of the actual hearing, originally scheduled for three days, Westminster introduced a whole load of new material, for which they were roundly criticised by the judge.

They also switched their argument away from the stress-area policy to allegations of criminality and potential street problems.

But the point was that the eventual decision appears in no way to have dented their policy in the West End, as they feared and has been suggested elsewhere. What they have lost is their most precious commodity - face. They threw money at a particular case, and lost. Now, they cannot go around claiming, as they have done for so long, that they have won every argument.

In fact the district judge did not overturn their policy at all. She said that this particular club was so well run and of such a kind that it would not, by having longer operating hours, add to any of the problems which the policy was designed to address. It was therefore a case in which an exception could properly be made to the policy.

It did not mean, as Westminster feared, that it would open the floodgates to applications for longer hours. Few premises could assemble the same standard and quality of actions to promote the licensing objectives, or would be in a position to spend as much as Movida clearly does on preventing problems and liaising with the authorities.

So was this huge effort really necessary?

All I can say is that during this period, I and many colleagues were still waiting for our original transition licences to be issued - and because of the lapse of time, officers may even have forgotten what was agreed. Spending a bit more time on pushing out the paperwork might have been the better option.

Related topics: Legislation

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