A case has recently been decided in the Administrative Court which promises to have the potential to affect the existing conditions of many premises licences in the UK which are aimed at protecting local residents from noise.
The case, R (Developing Retail Ltd) v South East Hampshire Magistrates Court, Administrative Court, 4th March 2011, revolved around the imposition of two conditions on a provisional statement of a premises licence which had been granted to Developing Retail Ltd.
The second of these conditions stated that “all noise from the regulated entertainment at the premises should be inaudible one metre outside any noise sensitive premises”.
Developing Retail Ltd argued that this noise condition was “vague, imprecise and arbitrary”.
The condition certainly does beg a question. What exactly would constitute “inaudible” for the purposes of the condition?
Surely this could not be taken to include every single noise - the noise emanating from an air-conditioning unit or the clinking of empty bottles being taken out to the recycling bins perhaps? Or was it simply intended to relate to the noise of over-exuberant guests enjoying an evening at the premises, or the noise made by those entering and leaving late at night?
Fortunately for the prospective premises licence holders, Developing Retail Ltd, the judge agreed that the noise condition added by the magistrates’ court was “so vague as to be unenforceable”. There was no clarity as to the premises or location intended to be protected, and the meaning of “inaudible” was unclear. The condition fell short of the standards suggested by the Guidance for the relevant section of the Licensing Act which tells us that such conditions must be “expressed in unequivocal and unambiguous terms to avoid legal dispute” (para 10.11).
The condition was quashed and the case was returned to the magistrates’ court to consider an alternative condition.
So what will the new condition state? How can such a condition ever be enforceable? There is evidence to suggest that a condition which specified the particular nearby locations to be protected and described the decibel level of noise that was acceptable at these specific locations would be enforceable and lawfully achieve the purpose of the condition, that is, to protect local residents from noise.
We would suggest that very few conditions on existing premises licences meet the standards of such a suggestion and the progress of this particular case is certainly worth following with interest.
If you have any questions relating to allegations or complaints of noise nuisance, or if you unsure about the exact requirements imposed by conditions on your premises licence, please call us on 01277 631 811 or by using the free enquiry form below.