HACKNEY: STRIKING A BALANCE BETWEEN A NIGHT-TIME ECONOMY & PROTECTING RESIDENTS
 

Nightlife is at the heart of our borough’s vibrancy, but we must stop revellers vomiting and urinating on our residential streets

In the Guardian on Friday 27 July 2018, under the headline 'Licensing changes won't kill Hackney, but will protect our residents', Philip Glanville, Mayor of Hackney, wrote ...

Licensing policy isn’t usually the most contentious area of local government. It’s certainly not something I ever thought would lead to me being called an “unutterable cunt” by Giles Coren. But that’s what happened after Hackney council, where I am the elected mayor, approved its new licensing policy on 18 July. Since then, some have described the new rules as the toughest restrictions on nightlife in the country. But we don’t agree.

Over the past two years, Hackney council has gathered extensive research, from our street cleaning time to the emergency services, on the impact of the night-time economy. As a result, we’ve introduced a new policy that aims to support new, well-managed businesses.

Our new policy sets the basic guidelines for new venues. It will be the responsbility of businesses to state, in their application, how they will manage the impact of their late-night business on the local area. We want to work collaboratively with new businesses to achieve that.

It also doesn’t affect existing businesses at all. On Tuesday, for instance, under the new policy, our licensing committee granted permission for a restaurant to extend the hours it serves alcohol in Dalston. 

We have decided to set the core opening hours across Hackney, including Dalston and Shoreditch, for which a new business can expect to get a licence because, after careful reflection, we need to balance the need for pubs and clubs to thrive with the needs of people living in the local neighbourhood. 

This row has quickly moved away from the technical aspects of licensing to become one about class and what kind of place Hackney is.

We have come under fierce attack, especially on Twitter, in particular by the We Love Hackney campaign, which has, unfortunately, spread some ideas that are simply not true about the impact of the policy. Residents and local business owners have, quite rightly, been alarmed.

If I didn’t know better, I would have supported it myself. I love Hackney’s nightlife – it’s one of the reasons I moved here in 2003, spending my formative years in Shoreditch and Dalston. Before that, I worked in bars at college and university. Nightlife is at the heart of the borough’s creativity, inclusivity and vibrancy. I understand why people have risen to defend it and I know we’ve got to work to reassure those with genuine concerns.

But campaigners suggest it’s a blanket policy against all new venues, or a curfew. It’s not. They suggest that everything in Hackney will shut at 11pm. It won’t.

We’re trying to strike a balance between a growing night-time economy, the interests of the residents who live nearby and the impact on our increasingly stretched public services. Since we implemented similar measures from 2005 in Shoreditch and 2014 in Dalston, we have not hindered the growth of the night-time economy, but sought to shape it in a sensitive way to the benefit of all. There are now more than 1,300 licensed premises in the borough.

Nightlife is very important to Hackney, financially and culturally, but it has a huge cost on the public purse. The Metropolitan police, already stretched to its limits, is stretched even further on a Friday and Saturday night in Dalston and Shoreditch, when crime and antisocial behaviour rise sharply.

Nightlife costs us about £1.5m a year more than it brings in, mostly for extra street cleaning. Whether we should be spending that money cleaning up partygoers’ litter, vomit and worse using austerity-stretched services is a matter for serious debate. Rents and business rates have gone up, but this money doesn’t come to the council to spend on services.

The argument we’ve faced is that if people don’t like noise they shouldn’t live in the city. Tell that to the thousands of council tenants who live in Shoreditch, many of whom were there long before it became the Shoreditch we know today. Tell that to the working people bringing up their families in Dalston, without whom London could not function, who are woken at 4am by revellers vomiting in their front gardens or urinating on their steps.

For some, nightlife has positive benefits; for others, it means antisocial behaviour, noise and people from elsewhere using Hackney as a weekend playground with no thought for those who live here.

This borough is just 6.8 square miles with a population of nearly 300,000. Many of our residents enjoy our rich cultural and social life, and many of them just want a good night’s sleep.

We have fantastic, responsible bar and club owners with whom we work closely, and others – thankfully a minority – who are less so.

Hackney council, with a diverse population and ever-decreasing public resources, is trying to achieve a balanced approach. As mayor of this exciting borough, I’ll always be a friend to responsibly run venues but I will also defend our residents’ right to a clean and peaceful life.

The full article, with links, can be downloaded from:

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/jul/27/icensing-changes-wont-kill-hackney-but-will-protect-residents

Also downloadable by following this link is an article which, under the banner

'Don't let council killjoys ruin London’s vital nightlife'

gives an alternative view ...

Nightclubs bring much needed vitality to areas – they should be encouraged, not curbed

I might be a boring, past-it crock, who startles herself if she moves position on the sofa too fast, but even I know that a truly great city, such as London, never sleeps. Or, to be more specific, vibrant cities have areas where a bustling nightlife is guaranteed for those who want it.

If I still know this, and support this, even as I sit, covered in cobwebs, old leaves and deep existential despair on my sofa, then why doesn’t Hackney council?

The east London authority, which covers areas such as uber-trendy Shoreditch, has just voted on extending special policy area (SPA) laws, which require new venues to prove they won’t add to the “cumulative negative impact” of other licensed businesses and can impose strict curfews. And by strict, it means midnight at weekends.

Is this a joke? When I was cavorting about in my youthful glad-rags, I often didn’t make it out of the house until midnight. Some might say: what about the right to peace and quiet? However, locals are overwhelmingly against the restrictions. (One survey suggested 84% against proposed curfews.) Which makes sense. Some new licensed businesses will thrive, some will fail, but what chance for any of them under such restrictive conditions? And then, what happens to the area?

Rod Stewart long ago quipped something along the lines of: “I went to New Zealand once – it was closed.” (Relax, he was only joking.) However, there’s a serious point here – if a city gets a reputation for a dead nightlife, then that city dies. While London’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, once declared “London is open”, this won’t last if key councils don’t celebrate, support and protect the city’s vital night-time economy.

[Barbara Ellis*, Guardian View, Sunday 22 July 2018]

* Barbara Ellis is an Observer columnist.