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Camden Town church gets go-ahead for live gigs

Licensers noted their had been no objections from local residents to the plans for St Michael's

28 November, 2016 — By Ella Jessel

Father Tom Plant (far right), the vicar at St Michael’s Church in Camden Town, with Brendan Collins, Jim Moreton and verger Richard Gosnold

A CAMDEN Town vicar is rejoicing after plans to turn his church into a live music venue were approved, despite fears it could lead to an increase in violence.

The Town Hall’s licensing committee approved Father Tom Plant’s bid to hold gigs at St Michael’s is open every day to offer worship, sanctuary and service to the poor and the vulnerable and we don’t mean to jeopardise this mission. On the contrary, we need to open it up to a wider cross-section of the people in Camden Town.”

The plans for the new venue were thrown into jeopardy when police raised concerns that church ornaments could be used to inflict injuries if a fight was to break out during a gig and council licensing officers called for the application to be rejected.

But the vicar’s application was given a huge boost after two ward councillors, Pat Callaghan and Richard Cotton, threw their weight behind the plans.

In a letter of support Cllr Cotton said: “St Michael’s Church is at the heart of the Camden Town community, engaged in tackling the problems in an active and creative way. It is not asking for a licence to create a vertical drinking establishment or a pub.”

Also speaking in support of the application, Brendan Collins, who manages gigs at St Pancras Old Church, said there had been a misunderstanding about what Father Tom wanted to achieve and that it would not be “another KOKO or Electric Ballroom”.

Mr Collins said: “People behave completely differently in churches than in a high street pub. They are often in awe and are just thrilled to be able to attend performances and music they are passionate about in such an incredible environment. The sale of alcohol is very much incidental to the music.”

Council licensing officer Toby Daynes said that, while the changes to the application had improved the proposals, he still had concerns and there was a “likelihood” the plans would cause public nuisance when crowds disperse after gigs.

But councillors decided to grant permission for an alcohol licence last Thursday after the capacity was reduced, the opening hours scaled back and the church agreed to a number of conditions set out by police.

Maryam Eslamdoust, the council’s licensing chairwoman, said the application had been “vastly improved”, adding: “I place some weight on the fact that this application has not generated any objections from residents. I place some weight on the fact that two of the ward councillors support this application and they both have detailed knowledge of the locality and of the licensing measures and objectives that we have in order to prevent cumulative impact.”

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