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
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.
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:-
- guidance regarding the special nature of Sunday;
- the power to restrict hours for the sale of alcohol
- 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
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
Alun Phillips LLB
Director of Legal Services
9 February 2000