Licensing issues continue to be a key concern for residents in Brighton city centre, as previously noted. Despite the introduction of a ‘Cumulative Impact Area’ hours continue to get later and it’s a struggle to stop a race to the bottom. I’m really pleased that Police, residents and ward councillors have been working together more closely than ever on licensing issues. Unfortunately, that’s not always enough… For example earlier this week, despite very strong objections from the Police, the council noise team, residents and myself as ward councillor, a panel of licensing councillors agreed to extend the hours and operations for Jam (formerly the Water Margin) in Middle Street. Their decision seemed to run contrary to council’s own policies and furthers the rush to later hours, as it seems only a matter of time before other venues nearby try to extend their hours to keep up with the competition. There’s more in my release.
With limited Police resources, Operation Marble (which handles night-time economy issues Fri-Sat) can only cover so many streets and, at best, runs until 4am. However more and more premises are being allowed to open beyond that, meaning people leaving clubs after the visible Police presence has gone.
The Cumulative Impact Area (CIA) policy is supposed to go a little way to balancing the problem that each license application is supposed to be taken on its own merits. Without the CIA it’s virtually impossible to refuse applications just because there’s already too many licensed venues in an area already. However it’s not enough and East Street is a good example of where a high density of venues in one small area can cause serious problems. We need to preserve Brighton & Hove’s attractiveness for visitors, but we need to do that in recognition that it has an old town centre with a significant residential population.
Working with the residents I’ve created a film of what a Friday night is like for them. Along with the launch of this film I’m calling for a summit to bring together the council, Police, venue managers and residents to find solutions. We’ve already had some small wins by just improving communications between venues and residents. I know we can build on that. Until the licensing laws get properly sorted out by Parliament, we’re going to need a lot more of this kind of joint working to ensure that the needs of businesses, visitors and residents are sensibly and successfully balanced.