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Council slammed over licensing failures

PUBLISHED: 07:30 27 June 2006 | UPDATED: 11:06 22 October 2010

LORNA MARSH

Council officials were slammed by magistrates yesterday for their “alarming” failure to address a six-year catalogue of complaints over loud music at a historic hall.

Council officials were slammed by magistrates yesterday for their “alarming” failure to address a six-year catalogue of complaints over loud music at a historic hall.

In an eight-page document listing their reasons to uphold restrictions on music at St Andrew's Hall in Norwich, magistrates criticised senior city council staff in charge of managing the venue for not knowing the conditions of its public entertainment licence (PEL).

They added that the hall had been poorly managed and that the council's failure to investigate several complaints about the noise was “either a gross dereliction or one of indifference”.

And because of the conflict of interests arising from the hall being managed by the council magistrates recommended that it be leased to a third party. If that was not possible a specific appropriate council officer should named as the licence holder, they said.

Complaints about the 16th century venue go back to 2000 when John Hardman and his wife Carol moved in to Prince's Street opposite and set up a bed and breakfast there.

Magistrates heard that an environmental health officer visited the Hardmans that year following the first complaint and concluded the noise was a statutory nuisance, which was confirmed by decibel readings.

Since then Mr Hardman said that eight more complaints were made about noise but no further visits were made to his home until earlier this year.

In one instance in 2001 assurances were made by senior council officials that there would be no amplified music after 11pm but these were not kept.

Solicitor Mr Hardman, who promotes the proximity of the bed and breakfast business to the venue on its website, told magistrates that it was not until January 2006 that further readings were taken there.

Magistrates concluded: “We have to reiterate our alarm and concern at the acknowledged poor management of St Andrews Hall over a prolonged period, the broken assurance and the repeated breaches of the PEL conditions which were not investigated by the respondent's employees who had a duty to investigate…

“We are sure that complaints about noise nuisance emanating from other premises would have been vigorously investigated and acted upon by the respondent's [Norwich City Council's] environmental health officer.”

The Hardmans' success means a sound limiter will remain at the venue and a deadline of 10.30pm imposed on amplified music - an hour earlier than the curfew put in last year.

Council officials have previously said that the conditions will have a severe effect on what events can be held at the venue - including weddings and the annual Norfolk and Norwich Beer Festival.

Several weddings have already been cancelled at the venue because of the restrictions although in their conclusions magistrates stated “we do not believe the future use of the hall will be threatened”.

Last night a council spokesman said officials could not comment any further as legal advice was now being sought.

“We have the judgement which we are studying in detail and taking further legal advice. At this stage we cannot comment any further but as soon as we have a further comment we will be in touch,” he said.

The Hardmans have maintained throughout the case that they are not trying to ruin the cultural vibrancy of the city.


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