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J D Wetherspoon PLC refused appeal in Leeds Magistrates Court

I was delighted to represent Arc Inspirations Limited as a party in the Appeal by J D Wetherspoon PLC against the decision of Leeds City Council to refuse it a new premises licence for the former Elinor Lupton Centre in Headingley.

The Elinor Lupton Centre, being part of the old Leeds Girls High School, sits in a residential area away from the commercial centre of Headingley. A number of residents and Arc Inspirations had objected to the grant of a premises licence for the site. On 29 November 2016 Leeds Licensing Authority’s Licensing Sub-Committee heard the application by J D Wetherspoon PLC and refused to grant it a licence.

District Judge Mallon had accepted my submissions that my client, Arc Inspirations Limited, should be allowed to be an interested party and I represented Arc’s interests at the Appeal. The main issues which Arc wished me to bring out, in support of the residents who also objected, centered around the potential for an increase in crime and disorder, were the application to be granted, through a change to the Otley Run (an organised pub crawl through Headingley) and the impact on major match days at the Headingley Rugby League and Cricket grounds.

My clients chair the Headingley Pubwatch and were deeply concerned that the introduction of a 500 capacity premises in the location applied for could have a significant effect on the overall management of licensed premises in the area. Having led Pubwatch for a number of years and having formed strategies for all operators to comply with in relation to the Otley Run, there were significant concerns that premises such as these could significantly reverse the positive steps that had been achieved.

The case came before District Judge Mallon and Stephen Walsh QC represented the Appellant, with Sarah Clover representing Leeds City Council.

After hearing all of the evidence and submissions on behalf of all parties, District Judge Mallon determined that the licence should not be granted, and therefore dismissed the Appeal. In her judgment she set out that the premises fell within the Headingley Cumulative Impact Policy Area which establishes a rebuttable presumption that new grants of premises licences will be refused, unless the applicant can demonstrate that a grant would not exacerbate the cumulative impact already suffered in the area.

The District Judge found that a 500 capacity premises so close to major sporting stadia and in the heart of the Otley Run would have a negative impact on the licensing objectives. She went on to say: “this brings the Court to what it perceives to be the fundamental contradiction at the heart of the Appellant’s case – it does not want to be a student pub and wants to appeal to local residents, yet two-thirds of these are students; it wants to bring in customers from elsewhere, but has a car park with 17 spaces; it wants to encourage a food-led approach whilst offering shots at 3 for £5. The Court does not doubt the honesty of the Appellant’s case, but it is contradicted by the evidence; and, of course, this analysis is not assisted by the evidence of how the business would respond on the occasions of one or other of the sports grounds hosting a match, with the huge increase in trade that would bring”.

I was delighted with the decision of District Judge Mallon and the fact that, in her reasons, she incorporated many of the issues that I had raised in submissions and cross examination of the witnesses.

I have always been of the view that these premises do not lend themselves to being such a high capacity public house, when the impact would be felt by residents and given the potential for an increase in crime and disorder in the wider area, as a result of major sport events and the Otley Run taking place.