Planning and licensing regimes raise separate issues in opening hours dispute

The owners of a restaurant in north-west London have lost a court bid to quash an inspector's decision upholding an enforcement notice seeking compliance with a planning condition restricting opening times.

The condition stated that the premises should only trade from 8am to 11pm on Sunday to Thursday and 8am to midnight on other days. Various attempts to increase the opening times had all been rejected. The owners accepted that the premises opened outside these but argued that no adverse impact on local residents had arisen. They also pointed out that their current licence allowed them to open until 5am, claiming that this implicitly recognised that no harm to amenity would occur.

In dismissing the appeal, the inspector had regard to complaints from local residents, including some living immediately opposite. Slamming of car doors and other activity associated with the restaurant meant residents’ amenity had been adversely affected, he held. The fact that a licence had been granted under different legislation did not mean that permission should be granted, he determined.

The owners challenged these conclusions, stating that letters from residents were unsupported by detailed evidence. They claimed that the planning department, when consulted about extending licensing hours, had not raised any objection.

Mr Justice Cranston disagreed. Firstly, he ruled, the local residents’ letters should not be read in a forensic manner. In his view, the inspector clearly had evidence from the objectors about the adverse effects of the later opening hours, including harm to the area’s peace and tranquillity.

He also noted that it is well accepted that the planning and licensing regimes are separate and the legal considerations underpinning them are different, although he acknowledged that there is sometimes an overlap. The inspector had been aware of the hours permitted by the licensing authority and clearly took that into account, he found. In his opinion, the inspector’s decision was unimpeachable.

Gold Kebab Ltd v Secretary of State for Communities and London Borough of Brent

Date: 4 August 2015

Ref: [2015] EWHC 2516 (Admin)

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