“National media highlighted the expected outcome of the reopening of pubs on the 4 July, lots of drunken and rowdy crowds not maintaining social distancing. Given the entirely predictable outcome, it seems rather unfortunate that the council’s noise nuisance service, operation reprise, remains suspended. Residents in my ward, disturbed by the actions of the owners, operators and customers of the Hope and Anchor Public House, who are clearly breaching their licence conditions, found there were no agencies willing to do anything at all about their young children being kept awake by loud music and shouted obscenities until very late at night. The owners/operators of the pub, perhaps also aware there is zero enforcement, are continuing to make my residents lives miserable with impunity on a variety of dates since the 4 July.
Will the leader apologise to my residents for letting them down like this and commit to reinstating operation reprise with immediate effect?”
Councillor F.Thomson (Executive Member, Governance, Public Health and Climate Change) answered:-
“Thank you for your question.
I am sure all members will agree with me that we have nothing but praise and admiration for the way all our staff have continued to provide essential services in the context of a global pandemic.
Our Licensing, Environmental Health and Community Safety teams were obviously aware of the 4 July reopening date for pubs and restaurants and the teams worked hard with our neighbourhood police teams to ensure a reopening plan was in place. As we were aware that this could be a potentially challenging weekend, officers from the Environmental Health team were asked to work out of hours to monitor the situation in a number of commercial premises, including pubs, across the borough. This proactive work, to support the wider “recovery and easing of lockdown”, is vital to help restart our economy and provide support to local businesses and communities.
This is completely separate work to “operation reprise”, which is our out of hours noise service on a Friday and Saturday night. This reactive service enables staff to respond to complaints by visiting domestic properties in order to hear the noise as it is happening and well as visiting the premises causing the noise disturbance. As this service requires officers to visit people’s homes between the hours 10pm and 3am, the officers may encounter residents who are vulnerable and are shielding or perhaps even those who are self isolating. It is also not possible to ensure social distancing at all times during the shift and therefore our risk assessments suggest that this work should remain suspended for staff and public safety.
I would add that whilst the council has a duty to investigate complaints of noise nuisance, and has systems in place to do so, it does not have a duty to provide an out of hours noise service. The council has, however, taken a decision to fund and provide such a service to support residents, and I am pleased to remind members that we are one of the few authorities in the county to provide such a service. We are, of course, keeping the situation under review to see when it is appropriate to once again send our staff out to domestic properties, outside of office hours to investigate noise nuisance as part of the Operation Reprise service.
In respect of the Hope and Anchor Public House, the team were made aware of noise issues and as such have commenced an investigation into this matter. This investigation is still ongoing and therefore it is not appropriate for me to comment further in a public meeting. However, I am pleased to reassure the council that when necessary and appropriate to do so, enforcement action will be taken.”
Councillor Zukowskyj in a supplementary question said that he was quite intrigued by the response because there is clear evidence that multiple residents around the Hope and Anchor pub attempted on the evening of the 4 July to report the noise to somebody and the Police told them to go to the Council, the Council informed them that the Council has no structure, no facility in place so clearly there is miscommunication going on, perhaps in the preparation side of things that the residents likely to be impacted were not informed of what they needed to do. We need to look at that and see what happens and make sure that it gets sorted out. Subsequently the Hope and Anchor pub have been under investigation and there has been cessation of some activities that was seen on the 4 July immediately afterwards. Can we get some reassurance that this will be looked into and look at what went wrong in terms of communication?
Councillor F.Thomson responded that there were 4 complaints made relating to noise nuisance in relation to 4 July, as I mentioned earlier Officers did respond but obviously ‘operation reprise’ where Officer would go out to visit homes had been suspended during Covid-19 to protect staff and the public. However, as I mentioned earlier Officers have followed up the complaints and have been liaising with the proprietor and will take enforcement action in any case if required and I hope I have been able to provide reassurance to residents and Members that noise nuisance is taken seriously and when necessary will be followed up.