Residents concerned as Council green-lights beer garden inches from front door

Unlicensed outdoor drinking occurred frequently
Unlicensed outdoor drinking occurred frequently

Camden Council has granted an outdoor drinking licence to the hotel underneath Somerton House.

Somerton House residents fear they will have to walk past drunken revelers to get to their front door up until 10’o’clock every night. They are unhappy that in front of their homes there is now a large beer garden.

Twelve separate objections from local residents were lodged, but the licensing panel were swayed by the professional arguments of Premier Inn’s solicitor.

Two local residents addressed the committee highlighting issues such as:

  • The Premier Inn’s history of unresponsiveness to concerns raised by local residents; they sited an ongoing five-year battle against a noisy air conditioning unit installed without planning permission as evidence.
  • The Premier Inn’s inability to police it’s currently licence arrangements, pointing out that outdoor drinking has been a daily occurrence during the recent hot weather
  • The detrimental effect the noise of outside drinking would have on residents’ wellbeing, adding as it does to the barrage of other noises that the hotel creates.

Residents are disappointed that none of their concerns were taken on board by the Licencing Committee. Many residents of Somerton House are Council tenants with specific health needs that will not be helped by this additional imposition on their lives. We feel the Council is once again failing in it’s duty of care to Safeguard vulnerable residents.

The Premier Inn’s solicitor’s statement centred around the fact that his client’s hotel was a “premium product” and they would not permit anything to damage the brand’s reputation. This assertion was clearly accepted by the Committee despite the fact that residents had highlighted numerous examples of the Travel Inn’s less than premium conduct.

Procedural anomalies

The Committee members were not acquainted with the unique overlapping layouts of Somerton House and the Premier Inn, and all present agreed that the diagram provided was insufficient to accurately convey the full impact their decision will have. Indeed, Travel Inn solicitor John Gaunt himself had to apologise to the committee for mistakenly misrepresenting the layout of the premises.

The Licencing Committee representative seemed unaware of the ongoing investigation underway by his own department into breaches of the current licence, so this fact was disregarded.

Residents believe these two pieces of evidence would have a profound impact on the decision and are of the opinion that the Council should have ensured these points were presented to the committee.

Drinks on pavement

Somerton House Residents’ Association Chair  corrected John Gaunt’s assertion that no open drink containers would be taken onto the public footpath. In fact the largest of the two drinking areas can only be accessed via the public footpath. Residents are very concerned that this fact will inevitably lead to groups of drinkers blocking the pavement and causing a nuisance.

The Chair asked if a site visit was possible. The panel said this was possible under the rules. We have since noted on the Camden Website that adjournments for site visits are possible.

Some minor conditions were added to the license:

  • there is to be absolutely no drinking on the pavement outside
  • there should be frequent litter picks and glass collection.
  • residents will be given a number to call if they have issues (020 7554 3400)
  • a nominated employee will be responsible for policing the outside areas at all times

Residents returning home after the hearing were greeted with the unpleasant site of beer glasses full of cigarette butts uncollected on a table outside the Premier Inn. We remain concerned that this represents the hotel’s real commitment to our local neighbourhood.

We are disappointed that the Council has again chosen to put the financial interests of a large business above the welfare of it’s own residents.