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Application to vary a premise licence under the Licensing Act 2003 for Hush Heath Winery, Hush Heath Estate, Five Oak Lane, Staplehurst, Kent, TN12 0HX.
- Meeting of Licensing Act 2003 Sub Committee, Thursday 10th September, 2020 10.00 am (Item 27.)
- View the background to item 27.
The persons participating in the hearing were identified as follows:
Chairman – Councillor Joy
Committee Member – Councillor Springett
Committee Member – Councillor J Sams
Legal Advisor – Mr Robin Harris
Online Facilitator – Mr Ryan O’Connell
Democratic Services Officer – Miss Oliviya Parfitt
Applicant – Mr Richard Balfour-Lynn and Mrs Lesley Balfour-Lynn,
For the Applicant:
Mr Richard Balfour-Lynn – Owner of Hush Heath Winery
Mrs Leslie Balfour-Lynn – Owner of Hush Heath Winery
Sarah Easton - Winery Manager at Hush Heath Winery
Witnesses to be called by the Applicant:
Councillor John Perry – Staplehurst Ward Councillor and Vice-Chairman of Staplehurst Parish Council
Councillor Patrick Riordan – Chairman of Staplehurst Parish Council.
For the Objectors:
Mr Philip Kolvin QC – Acting on behalf of Angus Codd and Andrea Hodgkiss, Kim and Sally Humphrey, Alison Clark, Richard and Natasha Davidson-Houston, Amanda and Bernard Tipples, Frank and Ann Tipples, Dawn Lye, David Taylor and Nicola Feakin.
Witness to be called by the Objectors – Mrs Natasha Davidson-Houston
All parties confirmed that they were aware of the Sub-Committee hearing procedure and had each received a copy of the hearing procedure document.
The Chairman explained that:
· The Sub-Committee would allow all parties to put their case fully and make full submissions within a reasonable time frame.
· The procedure would take the form of a discussion led by the Sub-Committee and they would usually permit cross-examination conducted within a reasonable timeframe.
· Any persons attending the hearing who behaved in a disruptive manner may be directed to leave the hearing by the Sub-Committee (including temporarily) after which, such person may submit to the Sub-Committee over the Instant Messaging facility any information which that person would have been entitled to give orally had the person not been required to leave the meeting. If this is not possible, they may be permitted to speak at the Chairman’s Invitation.
The Sub-Committee confirmed that they had read all the papers.
The Chairman enquired whether any draft conditions had been agreed between the applicant and other parties; no draft conditions had been agreed.
The Legal Advisor outlined the variation application that had been received from Hush Heath Winery, which included an extension of hours and an amendment to the conditions of the licence held by the applicant. It was noted that 13 objections were received.
The applicant was invited to make their opening remarks and referenced the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic on his business which would lose approximately £925k this year. The reduction in sales to the tourist industry was of particular significance due to the businesses’ agricultural nature as a winery. The variation application had been submitted to allow for increased flexibility to enable the business to continue its operation. It was noted that prior to Covid-19, Mr Balfour-Lynn had previously informed local residents that there was no intention to amend the premises licence under which the business operated.
Mr Balfour-Lynn referenced the importance of the Winery for the local economy, which included employing local residents and the lack of both redundancies and salary reductions experienced by his employees during the pandemic. Specific reference was made to the adult clientele that visited the winery, who were often visiting the local area and Kent county and that the business had experienced demand for further wine-and-dine experiences.
Mr Balfour-Lynn informed the Committee that in January 2020 he had purchased a vehicle to collect visitors from Marden train station, due to local resident dissatisfaction with visitors being collected from Staplehurst train station by coach and driven along the narrow, local roads. It was confirmed that no complaints had been received by the Council or the Police in relation to the winery since the license was last amended in March 2019. The changes to the winery’s shop opening times and online advertising request on the business’ website were referenced.
The applicant’s witnesses were invited to address the Sub-Committee.
Councillor Riordan spoke in favour of the application and referred to the minutes of the Staplehurst Parish Councill meeting held on 10 August 2020, which endorsed the application and the importance of the Winery in the local community.
Councillor Perry spoke in favour of the application. The importance of the rural economy, local employment opportunities, the business’ clientele and its agricultural nature were mentioned. The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and the applicant’s attendance to Staplehurst Parish Council’s Road Safety Group meetings were referenced.
In response to a query from the panel, the applicant reiterated that customers had expressed demand for wine-and-dine experiences which is why the variation application had been submitted.
Mr Philip Kolvin QC was invited to make the opening remarks on behalf of the objectors represented and noted that this was the fourth licence application within two years. The rural surroundings in which the Winery and its neighbours were situated, to the locations flat surface and the impact of sound travelling from the venue, the lack of street lighting in the local area and narrow roads were highlighted. Mr Kolvin QC stated that the variation application focused on the use of the premises for evening activities similar to those conducted in a hospitality, rather than agricultural, venue.
It was noted that the Applicant’s current licence allowed for 12 special events per year, which would increase to allow 168 evening events per year if the variation application was granted in totality. The request to allow product sales until 11p.m. and to advertise the sale of alcohol on the business’ website were also mentioned, in light of the Sub-Committee’s previous decisions on the licence conditions.
Particular attention was drawn to the documentation supplied to the sub-committee on behalf of the objectors Mr Kolvin QC represented. This documentation related to the 2013, 2018 and 2019 sub-committee meetings that had taken place, in what was perceived as attempts to relax the licence conditions previously set by the sub-committee. In all three instances, the supply of alcohol that had been restricted to tasting samples only, the extremely remote location and restricted visitor access had been referenced by the applicant.
Through a hearing held in September 2018, the visitor tasting room was included within the area for which licensable activities took place. The decision and minutes of that hearing were referenced, whereby the applicant confirmed that there was no intention of having more than 12 events per annum.
An application for a minor application variation was submitted and rejected by the Council’s officers in 2018 as a variation application was required instead.
Mr Kolvin QC reiterated that in 2019 the applicant had applied to remove the licensing condition whereby the supply of alcohol was limited to tasting samples and to amend Annex 4 of the premises licence. In relation to this hearing, three letters; two from Ms Easton and one from Mr Balfour-Lynn to the Council’s Senior Licensing Officer and to local residents which stated, in part, that there was no intention of the Winery operating longer opening hours or becoming a restaurant or bar. It was noted that following the letter to residents, the applicant’s solicitor would not engage with Mr Kolvin QC or his clients in respect of having draft conditions agreed before the March 2019 sub-committee meeting.
Mr Kolvin QC then referenced the determination and reasons provided as a result of the March 2019 sub-committee meeting, with the sub-committee informed that the applicant had only conducted one special event since the variation application was granted despite Mr Balfour-Lynn’s request for greater flexibility. It was argued that the greater flexibility requested due to the Covid-19 pandemic was not a licensable objective need and that the £925k income loss had not been confirmed through a statement of accounts. Mr Kolvin QC requested that the sub-committee Members reject the variation application.
Mrs Natasha Davidson-Houston spoke against the application. The witness lived close to the Winery and stated that as an agricultural and residential area, it was inappropriate for a night-time hospitality venue. The previous number of sub-committee meetings held in relation to the winery were referenced.
Mrs Davidson-Houston stated that the applicant had only used the special events provision once within the last 18 months, whilst the variation application would allow for a much higher volume of events if granted. Relaxations on the advertising restrictions in force would encourage more visitors, which would then increase the traffic flow along the local roads which were difficult to navigate and increase the noise generated. This would be greater in the winter months, with a lack of street lighting and pavements available.
It was noted that whilst the winery’s minibuses travelled from Marden train station, individual cars and cabs often drive to the winery from Staplehurst station. Private tour companies would also arrange for coach trips to the winery using that route and there was no public transport available to and from the winery. Mrs Davidson-Houston reported two recent incidents to Staplehurst Parish Council, whereby vehicles coming out of the Winery had caused her to brake sharply.
The sub-committee were reminded that planning restrictions existed in the local area to restrict external lighting, with the winery permitted to use external lighting in certain areas at certain times. The safety of visitors without such lighting was highlighted. The large windows of the winery buildings enabled the light to be seen from homes within the local area.
Mrs Davidson-Houston reiterated that the applicant had given multiple assurances to residents that the Winery would have restricted opening hours and would not routinely open in the evenings. It was felt that the variation application submitted was in direct contradiction of these assurances and the sub-committee were asked to reject the application. It was repeated that the local area was not conducive to a tourist, hospitality venue which they believed the Winery would become.
In response to a question from the panel, Mr Kolvin QC clarified that darkness was also a licensing consideration in terms of the potential impact to nuisance and disturbance of amenity. This was relevant whereby the lighting from the winery would been seen from the windows and referenced the previously given permission to use carpark lighting for the twelve special events. The bends and narrow widths of the local roads from the winery were mentioned as a public safety concern.
The panel members confirmed that the closing hours of the shop, as part of the decision granted in 2019, had intended to be before the closing hours of the premises.
In response to question from the panel in relation to the incidents mentioned, Mrs Davidson-Houston confirmed that Staplehurst Parish Council had a dedicated email for traffic problems in the local area generally.
Mr Harris enquired whether the applicant or other parties had any conditions that could be proposed, to facilitate further discussion during the hearing.
Mr Kolvin QC stated that he could not comment on this request as the objectors which he represented were not present to indicate their wishes.
Mr Harris queried whether the hearing could be adjourned to allow for further discussion between the applicant and other parties, to which the applicant responded that he did not believe this would be possible. The applicant offered to limit the number of evening guests to 75 through bookings only, to sit indoors with dimmed lighting to mitigate the objector’s concerns.
Mr Kolvin QC was invited to respond and stated that Mr Balfour-Lynn did not engage with residents prior to the submission of the variation application nor once objections had been received.
Mr Kolvin QC was invited to make their closing remarks and stated that the applicant’s desire for flexibility was already reflected in the 12 annual special events and temporary events permitted within the current licence. Mr Kolvin QC encouraged the applicant to engage with local residents and re-referenced the increased number of evening events requested.
The limited hours in relation to off-licensing as previously decided by the sub-committee were referenced and the applicant’s wishes to advertise online and through signage were noted.
Mr Balfour-Lynn was then invited to make his closing statement, during which he stated that he and his wife were responsible business owners and that their businesses has had to adapt over the last ten years. The impact of Covid-19 was reasserted.
It was stated that whilst the premises licence allowed special events, these were not common for the winery to undertake with educational wine dinners now preferred. It was noted that the Council had not received any complaints arising from any guests and staff, which if received and justified could lead to the premises licence being amended or withdrawn.
With reference to the advertisement of sales, the applicant stated that this would take place on the businesses website and that the shop would only remain open whilst the winery itself was open. The support from Staplehurst Parish Council was reiterated.
The panel asked the applicant why the conditions offered during the meeting were not originally suggested and whether this could have been included in the variation application form. Mr Balfour-Lynn stated that the form was limited in scope and that he did not wish to put constraints on the business should it need to adapt at a later date.
The Legal Officer confirmed that there were no further matters to be raised or resolved.
The Chairman then adjourned the meeting for deliberation and requested that the Legal Officer remained to assist them. The panel would return to announce the decision at 2 p.m.
At 2p.m. the Sub-Committee returned and invited the legal officer to read out the decision with brief reasons. The sub-committee briefly adjourned and then returned to the meeting, in relation to the clarity requested that the alcohol be supplied within the extended hours with food ancillary to a full table meal.
It was confirmed that a written decision with full reasons would be provided within 5 working days. Parties were reminded of the right to review a premises license and the right of appeal to the Magistrates Court.
The meeting closed at 2.10 p.m.
RESOLVED: That the Sub-Committee’s decision and reasons be detailed in the Notice of Determination attached as an Appendix to the Minutes.
- Application to vary a premise licence under the Licensing Act 2003 for Hush Heath Winery, Hush Heath Estate, Five Oak Lane, Staplehurst, Kent, TN12 0HX., item 27. PDF 159 KB View as HTML (27./1) 137 KB
- 1 Appendix - Hush Heath Variation Application, item 27. PDF 1 MB
- 2 Appendix - Current Plans, item 27. PDF 1 MB
- 3a Appendix - e-MAIL 10.8.20, item 27. PDF 31 KB View as HTML (27./4) 2 KB
- 3b Appendix - Letter of Objection August 2020 FINAL, item 27. PDF 232 KB
- 3c Appendix - Appendix 1 - Submissions bundle final (for hearing on 28 March), item 27. PDF 11 MB
- 3d Appendix - Appendix 2 - NOTICE OF DETERMINATION PREMISE(VARIATION) - 190328, item 27. PDF 130 KB
- 3e Appendix - Appendix 3 - Note of Residents Meeting 20 01 2020, item 27. PDF 139 KB
- 3f Appendix Appendix - e-MAIL 12.8.20, item 27. PDF 33 KB View as HTML (27./9) 2 KB
- 3g Appendix - 20 01678 LAPRE Residents Representation 12 08 2020, item 27. PDF 153 KB
- 4 Appendix - Staplehurst Parish Council Comments 11.8.20, item 27. PDF 53 KB View as HTML (27./11) 8 KB
- 5 Appendix - Current licence, item 27. PDF 101 KB
- 6 Appendix - Plan of the area Hush_Heath_Winery, item 27. PDF 151 KB
- 7 Appendix - Human Rights., item 27. PDF 30 KB View as HTML (27./14) 10 KB
- 8 Appendix - Order of Procedure of New and Variation Hearings, item 27. PDF 125 KB View as HTML (27./15) 39 KB
- NOTICE OF DETERMINATION PREMISES (VARIATION), item 27. PDF 117 KB View as HTML (27./16) 51 KB