Select Committee on Delegated Powers and Deregulation Ninth Report

Letter to the House of Commons Deregulation Committee from the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea

1. Sunday Evenings

You ask whether the Council is primarily concerned about disturbance on Sunday evenings or about preserving the special nature of Sunday. The Council is concerned about both aspects. For the majority of residents, Monday morning represents the first day of the working and school week. In that context while residents are prepared for late night/early morning activity on Fridays and Saturdays, they need peace and quiet on Sunday nights.

The Royal Borough, the smallest London borough, has some 1400 licensed premises in its area. 500 of these licensed premises are restaurants which can serve alcohol until 11.30pm on Sundays. 96 premises have public entertainment licences with 55 having special hours certificates up until 2.00am on weekdays and Saturdays. The nature of development in this borough means that residential property of all sorts is cheek by jowl with retail and licensed premises. There has been a growth in activity in licensed premises in recent years.

This proposal would allow the sale of alcohol in restaurants and clubs up until 12.30am on Monday morning. With a further half an hour drinking up time patrons would be making their way home between 12.45am - 1.15am on Monday mornings. This is too late and will be disruptive.

In an area like Kensington and Chelsea such a proposal will have a severe impact on those who rise early on Monday morning, schoolchildren and even those intending to have a good night's sleep on Sunday nights having stayed up late on Fridays or Saturdays. Car doors slamming, restaurants and clubs closing with noise in the streets is extremely intrusive. For residents such further intrusion on Sunday nights would be the last straw.

2. Special Nature of Sunday

There is also a view that whilst some activity on Sundays is appropriate in a modern society, there should still be respect for those who treat Sunday as a day for prayer and worship.

This has been recognised by public houses closing half an hour earlier and by supermarkets only being allowed to stay open for 6 hours between 10.00am and 6.00pm. These measures suggest that Sundays and especially Sunday nights are special and should remain special for compelling and sound reasons.

3. The Council's Current Position

The Council's position remains exactly the same as it did in 1995. Creeping deregulation has tilted the balance in favour of business with the prohibition on Sunday and night time trading being abolished and with public houses being open all day every day.

Lord Jenkin expressed the Royal Borough's grave concerns cogently when he responded on the Council's behalf to Viscount Astor's Private Members' Bill in February 1997. In fact, Viscount Astor promoted very similar amendments to those measures that were contained in the Government's Consultation Paper last April.

Lord Jenkin said then that the safeguards did not address the real mischief of the proposal. He said noise and disturbance will occur between 10.30pm and 1.00am and no measure other than closing times at 10.30pm or 11.30pm for restaurants will tackle the problem. The Council agrees.

4. Guidelines

It is difficult to address how guidelines would work without seeing them. However, I remain to be convinced that any guidelines will work in practice.

There are the obvious questions concerning the basis upon which Sunday is to be considered special. Will it address religious matters, employment issues, noise and disturbance and the nature of the surrounding areas? Will distinctions be drawn between city centres like Coventry, rural areas and mixed areas like Chelsea? Will there be a distinction between premises on arterial roads and in quiet side streets or cul-de-sacs.

How will the guidelines be followed by the Courts and local authorities? There are various possibilities. Guidelines may be rigidly adhered to, taken as an indicator, given very liberal interpretations or even ignored. Residents will find it very difficult, time-consuming and costly to challenge applications, If guidelines are imprecise they may have to obtain legal advice to interpret them. Guidelines and guidance generally are appropriate for such matters as planning but are not suitable for subjects so contentious as late night disturbance on Sundays.

5. The Proposed New Measures and Safeguards

These I take to be the following:-

  • closing time of 12.30am;

  • guidance regarding the special nature of Sunday;

  • the power to restrict hours for the sale of alcohol before 12.30am

  • the power of the Police to prevent special hours certificates operating on a Sunday, if disturbance is being caused.

Again, I have to say in practice and as a result of our experience such measures or similar do not work. The burden of proof rests firmly with residents and the Council. In an area which has reached saturation point with public houses, restaurants, hotels and clubs it is simply not possible to distinguish in many cases which establishment is causing noise. Even when that can be established, what will be an acceptable threshold on Sundays?

The Committee should be aware of how onerous it is for residents to give evidence. They believe they should not have to do so just to obtain peace and quiet. They and the Council have repeatedly argued that there is no acceptable substitute to closing times.

6. General Points

There are some additional points that I must make:-

a) This Sunday Dancing Deregulation Order preceded a proposal to allow restaurants to sell alcohol until 1.00am on weekdays. I enclose the Council's recent response which is relevant. [printed as Annex A]

b) The Council already spends nearly £1M per annum on combating noise nuisance and dealing with licensing issues. This figure will need to increase substantially if the Council's services to residents are to be maintained in the event of either of these proposals becoming law.

c) It is difficult to understand why these deregulation proposals are being pursued now when there is to be a White Paper in the spring. This is especially the case since Ministers have repeatedly said that only matters that are not controversial will be promoted under the deregulation process.

d) The Home Office through its Minister has yet again indicated by press release that the Sunday Dancing provisions are to become law before the matter has been considered by both Parliamentary Select Committees. This occurred on the Millennium deregulation proposal.

e) The way this proposal has been promoted has consistently been confusing referring as it does to the Sunday Observance Act 1780. The consultation papers have referred to the outdated prohibition on charging for dancing on a Sunday. Very few people have any concerns about charges being levied.

If the true purpose of this proposal and that of the extended hours for restaurants were brought to the attention of the public without reference to the 1780 Act, there would be much more widespread concern by Councils and the general public.


Accordingly, the Council is firmly opposed to this measure and does not believe that the safeguards and measures referred to will give any protection to residents. It will only increase the burden on them. This proposal should be withdrawn now to enable an informed and balanced debate to take place following the publication of the White Paper on Liquor Licensing which is expected shortly.

Alun Phillips LLB
Director of Legal Services

9 February 2000

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