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Fears over 50 new booze licence bids for Camden Town

Residents say more places to buy alcohol will leave them with sleepless nights

03 June, 2019 — By Richard Osley

The new Hawley Wharf development takes shape

AN explosion of 50 new alcohol licence applications for Camden Town have hit the desk of council chiefs, leaving residents fearing their streets will become wrecked by drunk revellers and late-night disorder.

The Town Hall must decide whether the new licences should be granted to food and drink operators who are sizing up moves into the expansive new Hawley Wharf development close to Camden Lock.

Opponents say the council should stick to a “cumulative impact policy” which marked up Camden Town as being so saturated with places to buy booze that, in order to protect residents, there would be a “presumption” not to licensee any more.

The council, however, has made exceptions over the past year. The battle to limit how many venues can sell alcohol – and when – comes as the landlord of one of the area’s oldest and most famous ­venues raises his fears about how the new canalside complex could put the squeeze on some of the existing pubs who have helped put Camden Town on the map.

Writing in the New Journal, Henry Conlon, boss at the Dublin Castle music pub in Parkway, which provided a launchpad for bands such as Madness, Blur and Travis at the start of their careers, said: “I’m certain that a detrimental effect will occur to surrounding established businesses who have battled to survive until now.”

Henry Conlon, the landlord at the Dublin Castle

He said he would be tracking the applications at Hawley Wharf to see if they would succeed where, he said, existing venues had struggled, adding that some of Camden’s historic bars had often faced hurdles in securing even minor amendments to their licences under the council’s policy.

Hawley Wharf, partly built on the site of the 2009 Camden Market fire, is still under construction but has already changed the face of NW1. Developers LabTech hope to get the new buildings open this year, having mapped out a new cinema, 150 retail units and around 60 places to eat or drink, the majority of which are likely to want the right to sell alcohol.

The identities of who may be moving into Hawley Wharf is not yet known. Earlier this year, a new group of combined residents’ associations in the area banded together and called on the council to remain vigilant about a likely rush of licensing applications.

Patricia Thomas, from TRACT – the tenants and residents associations of Camden Town – said that the number of licensed venues in the Stables Market, as an example, had slowly crept up, despite an overarching policy which comes with a “presumption” to refuse all new and variation applications. She said: “The changes seem to be the result of a too generous interpretation of cumulative impact, the fact that applicants wisely ensure that they can be seen as exceptions, combined with the fact that it is nicer to say yes.”

Ms Thomas added: “The health of our members suffers regularly from the effect of the night-time economy on their well being and particularly on their sleep.”

Patricia Thomas addresses councillors at an all-member meeting

Eleanor Botwright, who retired last week as the manager of the Castlehaven Community Centre, said: “The new licences are going to compound an already intolerable situation. “The most concern is for the children who are having their sleep disturbed at night, and the difficulty this causes for their education. They are just not ready for it, along with people being too tired to go to work.”

She added that security teams in Camden Town did “incredibly efficient jobs” but people were being displaced into the residential streets and the open space at Castlehaven.

Council cabinet councillor Meric Apak said that he was “satisfied that the cumulative impact policy is being correctly applied to applications we receive in those cumulative impact areas, and are based on the merits of each of the application”, adding: “We only grant applications if a panel considering those applications are satisfied that there is an exception.”

But he added that he had heard the concerns of residents over the number of licensed premises that had been approved over time and said he would ask council officers to investigate and a change in the policy could be possible when it was next up for review.

A spokesman for Camden Market said: “We have applied for 25 new premises licences, plus 25 ‘shadow’ licences. The shadow licences will be held by us and will mirror the 25 operator licences in order to allow better governance of Hawley Wharf and tight landlord controls of operators. All except two of these applications will stop serving alcohol at 9pm.”

He added: “The two rooftop restaurants are the exception but will still fall within the London Borough of Camden framework hours with alcohol sales ceasing at 11.30pm Monday to Thursday, midnight on Fridays and Saturdays and 11.30pm on Sundays. Every premises will be tightly conditioned to control their use.  “We will continue to work with the local community and believe that, once open, Hawley Wharf will complement the existing offer in Camden Town and be a great space for those who live and work in the area and those who visit.”

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