Lib Dem councillors propose midnight closing times for clubs and pubs in Epsom town centre
Pubs and clubs in Epsom town centre will have to call time by midnight under a radical new licensing plan put forward by the Lib Dems.
Epsom and Ewell Borough Council is currently reviewing its licensing policy and is considering introducing a zoning system across the borough.
It would be divided into red, amber and green zones, with different criteria introduced for all clubs and bars applying for new licences or wanting to make major changes to existing rules.
In the town centre red zone, containing High Street, Derby Square, Oaks Square, Waterloo Road, The Parade, Station Approach, Upper High Street, Ashley Road and South Street, clubs would only get a licence beyond 1am if they could show it would not contribute to the existing noise and disturbance created by existing establishments.
But Liberal Democrats councillors want to go much further to protect the increasing number of people living in the town centre - who they say are regularly disturbed by noise up to an hour after clubs and pubs empty.
Some clubs are currently open until 3am, but the Lib Dems want no alcohol sold in the red zone after 11pm from Sunday to Thursday, or after midnight on Fridays and Saturdays.
Lib Dem Councillor Alison Kelly said: "I can see no reason why Epsom should have the same licensing hours as a major city, which clearly it does in some cases.
"We need to claw back from the ridiculous situation which exists where the needs of residents have, for the most part, been ignored.
"Residents living in a town centre do expect noise, but being unable to sleep until after 3am on a regular basis is simply not acceptable.
"We do need a night time economy, but do we need people littering the place with takeaway wrappers and screeching in the streets? That is not helping the night time economy."
But Neil Dallen, a Residents’ Association councillor for town ward in Epsom, described the idea as "extreme" and warned that, if implemented, it would endanger the town’s thriving night life.
He said: "It would be stripping licensing policy and the night-time economy right back.
"We want students to go out and people to enjoy themselves, but equally, we have residents and it is a balancing act to find reasonable closing times for them both."
Tristan Maguire, owner of High Street venue Native Tongue, said people who move to the town centre must appreciate that it is a commercial district.
His late night bar and cafe is open until 3am on Fridays and Saturdays.
Mr Maguire said: "The reasonable case that has to be put forward is if you are going to buy a property in a commercial district surely there will be a reasonable amount of noise pollution.
"The night time economy is part of a vibrant market town and the reason why Epsom is successful."
But he believes there should be no more licensed premises in the town centre as there are enough for the customers served.
Tony Axelrod, who lives in Hudson House in Station Approach, agreed the issue was one of balance.
He said: "Dispersal time of bars and clubs in the town centre can be up to one hour after closing time and some clubs are open until 3am at weekends. Residents then have noise until 4am.
"So a fair and reasonable adjustment is something residents would wish to see.
"So many people are now living in the town centre - the situation has changed dramatically and it is all a question of having a vision for the town centre."
The recommendations will be considered by the licensing committee on July 3.
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