(P.63) Licence blow leaves complex on the rocks

by Mira Bar-Hillel, Evening Standard 6 December 2000

PLANS for a massive leisure development at Crystal Palace Park are in disarray after magistrates imposed tight restrictions on drink licences.

Developers of the multiplex wanted a dozen licences allowing alcohol to be sold without restriction for consumption on and off the premises. However, following strong representations by Mayor Ken Livingstone in support of local objectors, Bromley magistrates allowed only one pub licence.

They ordered that a further 10 licences will be granted to restaurants on the basis that drinks can only be bought with full waiter-served meals and must be consumed on the premises. Further conditions imposed included no live music, no public entertainment licences, and no occasional licences.

Mr Livingstone and local objectors made it clear that the battle of the licences was part of their overall bid to defeat the development, which they say should never have been allowed in an historic park setting amid dense and overcrowded residential streets.

Property experts now believe that the developer, London & Regional Properties, will face greater difficulties letting profitably to full-service restaurants rather than to pubs or bars, and that this will affect the search for financial backers. So far only UCI Cinemas has agreed to rent space.

The magistrates heard objections to the licences from more than 30 witnesses representing tens of thousands of residents in the five London boroughs bordering the park. The bench appears to have been impressed by evidence of problems caused by "mass volume vertical drinking'', a phenomenon detected by the Home Office and Police Crime Audits over the past three years where giant-sized pubs attract youth drinking and disorder.

Mr Livingstone said he was "delighted" with the licensing outcome. Philip Kolvin, chairman of the Crystal Palace Campaign, said: "This is a good result, but we shall not rest until our community is safe from the threat to its peaceful existence."

The unpopular scheme is already under fire from the European Commission which last month sent a formal notice to the Government about Bromley council's failure to conduct an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) before the project go planning permission in 1998. The Government must respond before the end of January.

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