The “Bermondsey Beer Mile” in the London Borough of Southwark has become famous, or infamous (depending on one’s perspective), for the number of micro-breweries and tap-rooms that have set up in recent years under the railway arches in Druid Street close to London Bridge station. It attracts groups of (mainly) men who sample their delights one after the other. Unsurprisingly, this has led to varying degrees of sobriety and drunkenness, usually good-humoured, but still impactful on the locality nonetheless. The residents who live in estates opposite the railway arches are, equally unsurprisingly, less enamoured. They have experienced the cumulative impact of this activity in the form of public nuisance, anti-social behaviour and general disturbance on a weekly basis.
But the Bermondsey Beer Mile is not within one of Southwark’s Cumulative Impact Policy areas. This case highlights the propriety of Council’s considering an application for extended hours where there is evidence of cumulative impact, albeit not in an area subject to a formal cumulative impact policy. The appeal court subsequently also approved the Council’s approach to applications beyond its framework hours.
The Southwark Brewing Co, has operated from the railway arch since 2014. The premises holds a premises licence with a terminal alcohol hour of 23:00hrs. That hour matched Southwark’s Framework Hours policy for applications within “residential areas”, such as this one.
The operator sought, by way of variation, an extension of his terminal hour to midnight (plus drinking up time) and offered a number of additional conditions. His application was refused by Southwark’s experienced licensing sub-committee. On appeal to the magistrates’ court the operator submitted that his extension ought to be permitted and the Council had wrongly taken into account cumulative impact as a justification for refusing it and so hadn’t considered the individual merits of the case. The operator also accepted under cross-examination that none of his proposed conditions could control the behaviour and impact of his customers after they had left the immediate vicinity of his premises. And therein lies the likelihood of extended hours adding to the existing cumulative impact and prolonging the effects even later into the night to the detriment of residents’ quality of life.
In dismissing the operators’ appeal on 12 April 2019, District Judge Susan Holdham, sitting at Camberwell Magistrates Court, agreed with the Council’s argument that it was perfectly proper to take into account evidence of cumulative impact as well as the Southwark’s Framework Hours policy, when refusing the variation. The Court was referred to paragraph 14.42 of the s.182 Guidance which states:
14.42 The absence of a [cumulative impact assessment/policy] does not prevent any responsible authority or other person making representations on an application for the grant or variation of a licence on the grounds that the premises will give rise to a negative cumulative impact on one or more of the licensing objectives, However, in each case it would be incumbent on the person making the representation to provide relevant evidence of cumulative impact.
In such applications, representors are required to adduce sufficient evidence of cumulative impact in a particular case. Unlike the position where there the application is subject to a formal cumulative impact policy, there is no rebuttable presumption of refusal.
Further, the Council argued, and the Court accepted, the sub-committee were entitled to be guided by their Framework Hours policy in refusing the application when the applicant had provided no good reasons to depart from it.
Although this first-instance decision has no binding effect, it does highlight the Courts’ willingness to approve Council decisions based on cumulative impact in the absence of a cumulative impact policy. The decision may also lead to a curtailing of future applications in the Bermondsey Beer Mile, particularly those that go beyond Policy Framework Hours.
The Council were awarded their costs in full. The decision can be found here.
Gary Grant of Francis Taylor Building acted for the London Borough of Southwark instructed by Debra Allday of Southwark’s Legal Department.