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Local residents oppose pub's plan for extended hours

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The Starting Gate pub in Speen has applied for extended opening hours with live music, karaoke and dancing

AN application for extended opening hours with live music, karaoke and dancing at a Speen pub has met with fierce opposition from local residents.

During a meeting of West Berkshire Council's Licensing Sub-Committee on Monday, the chairwoman of Speen Parish Council, Meg John, said she thought that the extended opening hours at The Starting Gate pub in Brummell Road, Speen, combined with a dancefloor would make the pub more like a nightclub.

But the pub's leaseholder, Claire Seymour, rejected her view and stressed that her plan was to retain the character of the pub, while allowing her clients to stay on a little later.

Miss Seymour wants to extend the pubs hours on Sunday to Thursday from 11.30pm to midnight, and on Friday and Saturday from 12.30am to 1am, with permission to serve alcohol and provide facilities for live and recorded music, karaoke and dancing.

One of the pub's neighbours, Catherine Pavier, of Brummell Road, expressed her concerns over noise: “Some of your clients are like wailing banshees when they are outside smoking. It drives us mad!”

To which Miss Seymour responded: “I cannot stop people from smoking, that is not in my power, and we all know that people go a bit deaf when they have been drinking, but I do everything I can to get them to keep the noise levels down.”

Miss Seymour offered to install mechanical noise monitoring devices around the pub to keep disturbances in check.

Noise was not the only complaint, however.

Speen Parish Council, and the residents opposing the extended hours also cited problems with crime and antisocial behaviour in the area.

A barrister representing the pub, Bo-Eun Jung, countered that there was no evidence to link antisocial behavior in the area to the pub.

But Mrs John, said that although problems in the past may not have originated at the pub, increased hours may exacerbate the problems by providing a focus for late night revellers.

This is not the first time residents have objected to an extension of the opening hours of the pub: in August 2005, the pub's license was extended to its current times, despite opposition from some of the same people.

Further back, the pub was the scene of much controversy in the mid-1980s when the then-landlord, Brian Rightson, banned American servicemen serving at Greenham Common after a series of disturbances.

But in her closing remarks on Monday, Ms Jung said that there appeared to be a good relationship between Miss Seymour and the community and that most of the problems at the pub dated back to before she was the license holder.

She added that she thought many of the concerns raised by residents showed their opposition to extended opening hours as implemented by the government, rather than specific problems at the Starting Gate.

A decision is expected within the next week.

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