The government’s proposal to change the licensing act (2003) to deregulate the staging of entertainment events has been greeted with “dissatisfaction” by Oxford councillors.
In a step to sort out the “mess” of regulation surrounding entertainment events, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport has proposed to “remove the need for a license from as many types of entertainment as possible”. John Penrose, Minister for Culture and Tourism, suggested that the current system “holds back the work of the voluntary and community sector, and hobbles the big society as well”.
The Licensing and Gambling Acts Committee of the Oxford City Council met on the 19th October to discuss the proposal. The committee agreed that certain activities should be permitted to be “exempt” from the need for a license, such as private charity events, school plays, magician’s shows, pianists in restaurants, and “even performances by a quayside barber shop quartet”, however they did not wish to extend this exemption to all entertainment events.
The City Council Licensing manager Julian Alison said: “Concerns were raised as to the lack of clarity the proposals would cause to those living near premises that may wish to put up music and dancing events, as no limits would be in place with regards to timings, frequencies, etc.”
The new deregulation would mean that only events held at the Kassam stadium remained licensable in the Oxford area, as this is the only venue with a capacity over 5,000 people. The only over events that would need council permission would be boxing and wrestling matches and “any performance that may be classed as sexual entertainment”.
Lib Dem councillor for Carfax Ward Tony Brett said: “In principle while I support deregulating where it is safe to do so, I am clear that local authorities do need to have sufficient legislation behind them to be able to properly balance the needs of all people in this City, be they those who want to party into the small hours or those that want to sleep in the small hours so they can study or work in the morning.”
The council also raised the question of how to police public nuisance and noise nuisance issues. “One impact of the deregulation would be that, if local residents are disturbed by noise levels from entertainment at premises that would have previously required a license, the issue could only be dealt with retrospectively under the noise nuisance provisions of the Environmental Protection Act and Noise Act.”
Although councillors have voiced their opposition, local pub and club owners often appeared both unaware and unconcerned about the pending changes. Wahoo assistant manager Richard Christian said that the changes would not affect the club as their current license covers all the events they wish to stage. When asked about noise complaints, he said that “the noise limiter we have behind the bar means that we control the sound levels. I can’t see how the changes would make a difference.”
Thames Valley Police say that they are “in the process of submitting a detailed response as part of this consultation. At the moment, any changes are only at the proposal stage, and we do not wish to comment until the consultation process is complete.”