Is the balance fair between operators, the authorities and the local residents?
Is the balance fair between operators and the Authorities and, in particular, local residents? I have written about this before but several recent cases I have been involved in have caused me to once again reflect. There is, unfortunately, an increasing clash between development and local residents particularly in parts of central London. This is on the one hand caused by changes to pubs and customer behaviour. As in the last 10 – 15 years pubs have looked harder at their businesses and how they can increase revenue and one significant trend is the development of gardens or external areas; this has gone hand in hand with an increased desire for patrons to use these areas even outside the summer months. Operators have in turn been helped by increasing imagination and sophistication in turning the inside outside with the help of covered benches, hut style seating and heaters which enables longer trading outside the warmer months.
This is probably driven by a combination of European influence, the desire to be outside after a long day in front of the screen and also with the development of so many flats, the lack of domestic outside space. In particularly, families can spend a few hours enjoying a meal in a pub garden at the weekend.
On the other side, the local residents surrounding this garden who may have bought their property at a considerable price are reluctant to embrace this change of operator and customer behaviour because of the noise. This is particularly true where there has been development of the outside area to encourage greater customer use. A resident may have bought a house next to a more traditional external space with some tables and chairs and rather irregular use and this is entirely different from the same space becoming an effective extension of the pub. It is hard to argue that greater customer use will not engender greater noise.
When you put that together with residents who have become less tolerant then there is an inevitable clash. I am always surprised particularly in areas of west London where it seems to be accepted that aeroplanes fly over every minute and can be noisy, there is general noise from living in a city of refuse collection, buses, taxis and other people that the residents’ fire is directed at the pub. It may be that there is a greater and more continuous source of noise which is probably a “hubbub” rather than anything else but also that the residents have the knowledge and the power to target the pub in a way that they cannot other sources of noise.
In practice, a balance has to be drawn and much will depend on the quality and willingness of the operator and the local Council’s enforcing Authorities. Good operators will invest in staff training and numbers to monitor noise as far as possible but they can only do so much. In the end this has to be met, in my view by an acceptance of residents that if they live next to a successful pub with an outside area that some noise and possibly even some disturbance is inevitable.