A decisive intervention by one of the UK’s leading licensing barristers last night (8 October) highlighted the high stakes involved in attempts by some local residents to impose limits on the licence of the Duke of Edinburgh pub on Ferndale Road.
The pub’s owners, Solitaire Restaurants, backed by the Brixton Business Improvement District (BID), say that the limitations would make it uneconomical to run as a pub and lead to its closure.
When Lambeth council licensing sub-committee chair Councillor Martin Tiedemann suggested that the pub, which is seeking to clarify its existing licence, its supporters and its opponents, could all be heard in two sessions – 30 minutes for and 30 minutes against, barrister Gary Grant pointed out that proper consideration of the issues in just one aspect of the application would take a whole day.
The main point of contention is the number of people allowed in the pub’s very large garden. The arrival of an email from the London Fire Brigade addressing this issue in the late afternoon of the day before last night’s meeting only added to the complexity of the case.
After hearing advice from a council legal officer and a lengthy meeting in private to discuss the issues, the three councillors making up the sub-committee decided to adjourn the hearing until 28 November – but still at a time when all interested parties should be able to attend.
The committee had before it nearly 1,000 pages of documents which included more than 100 expressions of support (84) or opposition (17 including a petition) from local residents and statutory bodies, as well many videos and images, and sound recordings of the overground trains that pass the pub for many hours of the day and night.
Bina Patel, a licensing officer for the council, spoke of its “grave concern” about safety, while Gary Grant pointed out that fire safety was not an issue for a licensing committee but that, if it wished to address it, it would need to hear from expert witnesses from the pub’s side of the argument.