Pring: Keeping neighbours sweet

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Pring: Keeping neighbours sweet
It can take just one noise complaint to spark a licence review, warns MA editor

When the change in licensing control from magistrates to local authorities was being discussed six or seven years ago, the Morning Advertiser predicted that local residents would start to play a much bigger part in the lives of licensees.

It wasn't that hard a call to make, in truth. The proposed Licensing Act's main thrust was to create more local accountability for the retail trade.

By giving local councils responsibility for pubs and bars in addition to their public entertainment licence role, local politicians were bound to take more note of the trade.

Suddenly, votes could be won or lost if the local electorate were unhappy about the way councillors controlled the neighbourhood's pubs.

As part of the same process, any planning changes pubs wanted to make had to be brought to the attention of local residents much more clearly than ever before.

And these local residents were handed completely new powers to object to what their pubs were doing, or how they were operating. Just one neighbour's objection could set in chain a process that might, in extremis, lead to a revoked licence.

It's taken a while for local individuals to realise the powers they have. But in many parts of the country, the penny has finally dropped. The catalyst for change has been the smoking ban, which has led to many more customers using outside areas.

If their pubs are in residential areas, the inevitable noise they create is impinging on local eardrums. And many of these neighbours are not prepared to have their lives disturbed this way, even though in most cases they chose to live near that pub. So they object, as they can so easily do these days.

And pubs can suddenly find themselves hit by extremely heavy fines and incurring big legal bills from trying to defend themselves.

However unfair it seems to licensees, this is not a battle they should get sucked into. By all means argue your case with the environmental health officer if you feel the objectors have no case to make. But the chances are that you're fully aware noise levels outside have leapt since the ban, and that neighbours are being inconvenienced.

No pub wants bad publicity from fighting its neighbours. The only sensible course of action is to discuss the noise issue with them and get them on your side. Maybe you can offer them a meal every now and again as a way of winning them over.

Maybe you can help with noise breaks. And you can certainly ask your drinkers to be aware of others at later hours. The last thing you want is a war with the locals. That's just not what pubs are about.

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