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Shoreditch clubgoers clash with Hackney Council over plans for midnight curfew on new venues

PUBLISHED: 18:20 11 January 2018 | UPDATED: 18:24 25 July 2018

A night out at The Village Underground - one of the venues that makes the Shoreditch night-time economy world-famous. Picture: Luca Crescenzi/Flickr (Creative Commons licence CC BY-ND 2.0)

A night out at The Village Underground - one of the venues that makes the Shoreditch night-time economy world-famous. Picture: Luca Crescenzi/Flickr (Creative Commons licence CC BY-ND 2.0)

Archant

Clubbers and campaigners are preparing for another dance-off with Hackney Council over plans to bring in a midnight curfew for all new venues and clamp down further on openings in Shoreditch.

Shoreditch High Street at night. Picture: Terence ChisholmShoreditch High Street at night. Picture: Terence Chisholm

The town hall faces a huge challenge trying to balance the benefits of the area’s world-famous nighttime economy with its responsibility to keep the environment bearable for neighbours.

In 2015, plans to implement an 11pm borough-wide curfew were scrapped after a huge backlash – and because a minor error in the consultation leaflet was spotted. A 5,000-strong community campaign led the fight against the proposals and styled itself We Love Hackney, a nod to the borough’s own I Love Hackney civic pride project.

Since then, licensing officers have been trawling through thousands of responses they received in 2015, as well as meeting bar owners and neighbours to help shape a revised policy.

But We Love Hackney believes the new proposals are still too Draconian and is urging people to respond before tomorrow’s deadline.

Plans to limit new venues include: doubling the Shoreditch special policy area (SPA) in size; slapping a 10pm curfew on licensed outdoor activities; and shutting venues at 11pm on weeknights and midnight on weekends.

The council insists there will be exceptions, but We Love Hackney has accused the town hall of “proposing to take us back a century”.

Shoreditch at night. Picture: Steve Bowbrick/Flickr (Creative Commons licence CC BY 2.0)Shoreditch at night. Picture: Steve Bowbrick/Flickr (Creative Commons licence CC BY 2.0)

“In the most creative borough in the world’s greatest 24-hour city, it is laughable to expect people to go home at 11pm during the week and midnight at weekends,” the group said. “Laws limiting hours to that extent were first brought in during the First World War but eventually removed by the Licensing Act 2003.”

The group says the curfews would push drinkers into unregulated areas, encourage them to drink more at last orders, cause public nuisance at closing time and, crucially, have a “chilling effect” on innovation.

They also say the extension of the Shoreditch SPA, which would see it stretched to City Road at the Old Street roundabout, south towards the City and east towards Tower Hamlets, would be “disastrous”.

The SPA essentially makes it harder to open a new licensed venue in the area. Applicants must show their venue will not add to the “cumulative impact” of so many licensed venues concentrated in an area – such as anti-social behaviour or noise nuisance.

“It has already resulted in the stagnation of the nighttime economy in the area and puts Shoreditch’s reputation for fun, innovative and diverse venues at risk,” said We Love Hackney.

Alan Miller, chairman of the Night Time Industry Association (NTIA) and member of We Love Hackney, told the Gazette he was pleased to see the town hall had listened after 2015 and praised chiefs for their handling of the process. But he still isn’t happy.

Shoreditch at night. Picture: Peter Sigrist/Flickr (Creative Commons licence CC BY 2.0)Shoreditch at night. Picture: Peter Sigrist/Flickr (Creative Commons licence CC BY 2.0)

“It’s really good they listened to some things and I encourage the way in which some of the things have happened,” he said.

“But, people live, work and play in Hackney. They consider their social activity to be highly important. And they’ve made that point over and over again.

“There should be no finishing outside activity at 10pm. What about street food operators and night markets?

“The mayor of London has a 24-hour vision. That’s not just for licensed premises. It’s for all sorts of things – gymnasiums, libraries, theatres. They should all be part of the mix.

“We’ve now got a 24-hour Tube and a really eclectic, dynamic borough seeing some of its most loved premises going under.

“We have to be careful we don’t go back to the 1950s ideas. This idea of 10pm closing outside – we should be having 24-hour licences. Not all of them, but there should be a mixture so people can come and go at all times.

SPAs

The council say evidence shows the Shoreditch SPA is needed, and should be extended, because of the correlation between the number of alcohol-related ambulance pick-ups and locations of licensed premises – as well as figures regarding anti-social behaviour and crime.

It also plans to simplify the Dalston SPA by removing the existing “acceptable hours”, though the boundaries will remain the same.

“It would be lovely if Hackney Council could get in line with the 24-hour vision of the mayor.”

Alan said he acknowledges there must be a balance between pleasing people who want a thriving night-time economy and those who live in it, but said blanket rulings do nothing to help.

“Don’t pre-prescribe legislation,” he said. “The council still has all the strengths and powers: they can close a place down without having to have blanket rulings.

“I’m a resident and we had 5,000 people responding to the last consultation – 95 per cent of which were from Hackney. Nobody who is a resident wants to have music blaring into their bedroom at 5am. Of course it’s about balancing interests but you do not do it with blanket rulings.”

Hackney licensing chief Cllr Emma Plouviez said the town hall recognised the night-time economy made Hackney the vibrant, creative place it is, but that it had a responsibility to neighbours too.

She said: “We need to strike a balance between promoting a great cultural offer whilst ensuring residents can get a good night’s sleep and that all the streets and public areas are safer in the early hours.

“We would like to be very clear with the residents and businesses of Hackney that these proposed changes to the licensing policy do not mean that we won’t grant new licenses, and that they will not affect existing licences.

“As is normal every new licence application will be considered on its merits which means a detailed analysis of what is proposed by the business and what measures they will put in place to support a safer nighttime experience for all.

“These are guidelines, intended to help secure well-managed and safer venues right across Hackney. We want to know what businesses and residents think about these proposals before we finalise the policy, I would encourage people to reply to the consultation and share their thoughts.”

To have your say, click here.

Let us know what you think: e-mail gazette.letters@archant.co.uk.

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