BeachBox Developments Ltd applied for a ‘provisional statement’ which would give future operators assurance that a full alcohol licence would be granted.
Due to the number of public representations against a licence, a hearing of Adur District Council’s licensing committee took place yesterday evening (Monday September 13).
Officers reminded attendees that the committee could not consider representations against the principle of the Beach Green venue as it had already been given planning permission and this is not relevant to licensing.
Although the licensing committee is only considering a ‘provisional statement’ – permission to sell alcohol and provide entertainment in principle – residents felt this would be their only opportunity to voice opposition to an alcohol licence.
BeachBox Developments Ltd intends to lease the venue out and a future operator would have to submit a full licensing application for the sale of alcohol and other activities. But if the licence is ‘materially’ the same, residents would be unable to make representations against an alcohol licence.
Council officers also confirmed that, although the provisional statement does not include permission to sell alcohol to be consumed off of the premises, off sales could be applied for as part of a full licensing application. They reassured members of the public that this would require consultation and potentially another hearing.
If an alcohol licence is not granted, Shoreham BeachBox could still provide entertainment for up to 500 people between 8 am and 11 pm but founder Roger Wade said it would be difficult to market the venue.
He said: “Quite simply the site will not be able to operate without an alcohol licence.
“I do feel there has been misinformation and scaremongering about our scheme. I have multiple CEO positions and, during all the time we have tried to build, we have never had such opposition.
“I do not think we have handled this in the best possible way because so many people have written in. We find opposition to this confusing but, at the same time, we have listened to it.”
Objector David Calderbank claimed that the developer had ‘failed’ to mediate with local residents. He said: “This meeting has been delayed by a month. In that time BeachBox have completely failed to mediate with the local community – in fact, as detailed in the officer report, they regard the number of applications as both ‘too numerous’ and ‘too disparate’ to engage with.
“This complete unwillingness on BeachBox’s part to engage properly with the local residents, to our mind, indicates their unsuitability to be given any form of licence for this development as they have a demonstrable track record of poor engagement, perhaps driven by their desire to prioritise their own profitability over the community’s needs.”
The applicant’s solicitor said there had been ‘extensive pre-application and post application consultation’ with residents.
Mr Calderbank also raised concerns about potential noise levels from the venue.
He said: “Noise pollution is a major concern in this quiet residential area and the application contains no reference to how they will ensure that the current ambient levels on the green and at the surrounding residential properties should not be exceeded.”
Vee Barton (Con, Peverel) echoed these concerns, saying: “The applicant has said live music and entertainment will be held indoors.
“But it worries me on a hot summer evening – when the roof terrace and the large windows are open – will it cause a nuisance to residents?”
Officers said the environmental health team had raised no concerns about noise at the venue as a result of an alcohol licence.
Mr Wade added that the venue would commit to a noise and dispersal policy, saying: “The last thing we want is any operator that causes noise or nuisance there because ultimately that would devalue that site.
“Let’s not pigeon-hole us as a ‘big bad operator’ because we’re not.”
Mr Calderbank asked to see the proposed noise policy and said: “We know this area and it’s dead at night. I believe the licence should be refused.”
The applicant’s solicitor said a noise policy would be produced before the venue opens.
Another resident, Katie Woodgate, lives opposite Beach Green and pointed out a ‘restrictive covenant’ which neither councillors nor the applicant were aware of.
She said: “There shouldn’t be alcohol sales at all due to the covenant which is in place to protect residents and green areas.
“I am a Scout leader and we use these parks to bring the children to play on a weekly basis.
“Our children and families should be protected from a drinking venue.”
Restrictive covenants are usually contracts which restrict how a property or land can be used. This could include preventing businesses from operating on the land.
Council officers said the covenant was ‘irrelevant’ to the granting or refusal of an alcohol licence. They added that, if enforceable, the restrictive covenant could prevent the sale of alcohol regardless of a licence being granted.
Catherine Arnold (Lab, St Mary’s) asked how the safety of women leaving the venue and during dates would be ensured.
But Mr Wade said Ms Arnold had come to the meeting with her mind ‘pre-determined’.
He said: “What do you think we want to do that is so bad? All we want to do is build a fantastic beach front venue for all the community to enjoy.”
Ms Arnold said she had ‘absolutely no issues’ with the business but said Mr Wade’s responses to her questions were ‘incredibly defensive’.
The applicant’s solicitor said that conditions had been agreed with Sussex Police and this led to the force withdrawing their objection to an alcohol licence.
Residents also expressed concerns over intoxicated people making toilets and the Beach Green unsafe for families.
Mr Calderbank said: “The beach is a public facility where families should expect not to be exposed to unsafe behaviour.
“Anti-social behaviour is a real risk with the size of this development in this very quiet residential area, particularly if alcohol is served on the premises.”
Mr Wade claimed the public toilets were already host to anti-social behaviour but one resident said he had lived opposite them for 34 years and ‘had never heard of it’.
Yvette Peart also raised a link between drinking and drowning.
She said: “Increased drownings are a real risk when alcohol is served, as over 20 per cent of accidental drownings are attributed to substance abuse according to the Royal Life Saving Society’s ‘Don’t Drink and Drown’ campaign.”
Ms Peart said that residents would like to see a ‘community café’ at Beach Green but felt they ‘were not being listened to’.
Boxpark founder Mr Wade left about two hours in to the meeting as he was on a family holiday but also did not want to miss the opportunity to address the committee in person.
John Haffenden, who has lived in the area for 30 years, claimed that some members of the public had been left in the Zoom waiting room and could not contribute to the meeting.
Licensing committee chairman Paul Mansfield (Con, Cokeham) said that all registered speakers had been let in to the meeting.
But Maureen Ashley, a member of the Shoreham Beach Residents Association, claimed she had been ‘disenfranchised’ as she could not speak.
After the meeting, she said: “I registered to speak and was left in the waiting room for the entire duration of the very long meeting.
“It was evident from the YouTube broadcast that I was by no means the only one.”
She likened being unable to access the meeting to ‘having the door slammed’ in her face.
“If this section of the council cannot operate a Zoom meeting efficiently and democratically it shouldn’t use them,” she said.
The final decision regarding a provisional statement for Shoreham BeachBox will be published in the next five working days.