Stricter licensing in Hackney contradicts Khan's plan for a 24 hour city

Yesterday, Hackney council members voted unanimously in favour of introducing new, stricter licensing policy for Hackney's clubs, bars, and pubs. Earlier closing times and a heightening of the barrier for entry for new venues spells out bad news for London's ambition to become a truly 24 hour city.

All venues in the Hackney area will automatically be affected by the changes which enforce 11pm weekday, and 12am weekend curfews. Venues wishing to stay open for longer must apply for extensions and will be approved dependent on a number of factors including the impact of noise and of guest behaviour on local residents and surrounding businesses.

London has experienced a steady decline in the number of open clubs in recent years, but as venues close and London clubbing moves North East, areas such as Dalston have enjoyed some of the lowest closure rates in the capital. Due, in part, to the thriving arts and culture district's previously relaxed licensing policy. This is threatened by the new changes which also expand the Shoreditch Special Policy Area, making it orders of magnitude more difficult for new venues to open or for existing venues to gain the licensing they need to operate.

Some of the toughest restrictions on nightlife in Britain, and in the face of overwhelming opposition from local residents.

The controversial decisions have been met with an outpouring of anger and disbelief, Hackney residents, business owners, and the wider music community have taken to social media to voice their disdain. Resident community group We Love Hackney, who have been campaigning against the changes, put forward this open letter yesterday and responded to the decisions calling the changes "some of the toughest restrictions on nightlife in Britain and in the face of overwhelming opposition from local residents." The reaction is similar to that which was experienced after the closure and eventual re-opening of Fabric, with fears of the negative effects of gentrifications and luxury property development resurfacing.

Why the big change?

It is ignorant to downplay the issues that a council faces in dealing with a thriving nightlife. Hackney council carried out a cost benefits analysis last year in July and found that the night time industry costs £3.6m with only £2.1m recouped in revenue (a £1.5m loss). Whilst the general public is dismayed at the changes, a 2014 consultation about plans to instate the Dalston Special Protection Area - found that almost three-quarters of the 2,856 respondents said there was a problem with litter and waste, 61% were concerned about anti-social behaviour and 34% complained about noise. 41% of respondents from the properties in the immediate vicinity (roughly 50m) supported the proposal.

However, the residents of Hackney were consulted once again before the most recent changes and 73% of the the 680 Hackney residents asked about these policies were firmly against the plans. Furthermore, the cost benefits analysis carried out in July continues to explain that their report "ignores the positive impact of the jobs and wealth generated by the nearly 1,400 firms operating in the Borough. Likewise, it takes no account of the taxes including business rates, which are recycled back to Hackney from Central Government." continuing to admit that "clearly not all costs and benefits have been captured".

The report ignores the positive impact of the jobs and wealth generated by the nearly 1,400 firms operating in the Borough. Likewise, it takes no account of the taxes including business rates, which are recycled back to Hackney from Central Government.

Perhaps the most divisive factor of the new policy is that it is in complete contradiction of Sadiq Khans vision for a truly 24 hour city, his newly appointed Night Czar seemed powerless, initially issuing the following statement on twitter:

Before following it up this evening with a more promising sentiment

The issues of cost-to-council, disturbance for residents, litter, and anti-social behaviour cannot be ignored - but these are issues that must be addressed in every borough if we are to become a truly 24 hour global city. These overly harsh restrictions seem like a step in the wrong direction at a time when other European cities are enjoying reduced controls and even government protection, such as Germany's million-euro noise protection fund, which clubs can apply for if confronted by complaining neighbours.

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