On Tuesday 24 August, a district judge threw out an appeal against a decision by Canterbury City Council’s Licensing Committee to say no to plans to sell alcohol on a beach in Whitstable.

In July last year, Whistable businessman James Green applied for a new premises licence for an outside seating area accommodating 120 people on the beach opposite The Forge, Sea Wall, Whitstable.

The plan, which was yet to secure planning permission, sparked an outcry from the public including 198 representations to the committee over 488 pages.

At a hearing in August last year, the councillors on the committee refused the licence on a series of grounds including:

  • potential crime and disorder because the area had already been subject to a number of dispersal orders from the police and the expansion of drinking on to the beach would make this worse
  • potential public nuisance because customers from The Forge already block the footway making it difficult for families with children and disabled people and generate litter
  • a lack of handwashing facilities and toilets adding to the problem of people urinating and defecating where they should not
  • the sale of alcohol in full view of children especially the junior section of the nearby yacht club would be harmful
  • a potential threat to public safety after this and another outlet run by the same company continued to trade at the start of the lockdown with no regard for social distancing

After a three-day hearing at Folkestone Magistrates’ Court in June, District Judge Justin Barron agreed with the committee’s reasoning.

In giving his 36-page judgement, he said: “The application before the committee and this court has been criticised on two principal grounds, that it is precipitate and that it is poorly prepared.

“I agree with both of those criticisms. It would have been eminently more sensible if Mr Green had sought to resolve some of the maelstrom of outstanding disputes and issues he is embroiled in, concerning the beach and foreshore, by obtaining planning permission before submitting the licensing application. 

“Planning, the trestle tables, the dispute with the yacht club, the village green, all remain live issues.

“The committee was also critical of the deficiencies in the application and again I agree with them. 

“It is something that I find has persisted into this appeal. The appeal has a cobbled together feel to it with changes made on the hoof. 

“The evidence is thin with little thought and time given to supporting evidence, such as the risk assessment.”

Reacting to the decision, Cllr Ashley Clark, Chair of the Licensing Committee and the council’s Lead Councillor on Enforcement, said: “The committee, and no doubt the majority of the public in Whitstable, will be pleased with the court’s decision.

“I would like to thank everyone who played a part in helping the District Judge reach his verdict, especially council officers and those that made their submissions to the original Licensing Committee hearing.

“In this day and age, people are deeply cynical about their voices being heard by the powers-that-be.

“This judgement proves that is not always the case and they should always make sure they have their say.” 

The appellants were ordered to pay the council’s costs which were just over £50,000. 

By Ed

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