The converted chapel on Cemetery Road near Southampton Common has been given the go-ahead for an alcohol and music licence for business events.
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It was stressed at a hearing on Wednesday that, despite apparently incorrect information circulating on social media beforehand, the licence was for booked business events limited in number, sometimes to be accompanied by largely acoustic music, and not part of some scheme for a ‘pub’ or similar enterprise.
It had also been particularly unhelpful that the application had not been available to view online for some of the consultation period, stressed a number of hearing contributors - including the applicant.
Introducing the application, Chris Orr said that many commenting had been “let down” by a “system that has not informed them”, leading to incorrect assumptions being made.
Despite a large number of objections, to a great extent centring around concerns that the cemetery setting could lose its quality as a place for quiet contemplation and solace, some – particularly neighbours – indicated that they might be happy with a compromise over later hours.
But others objecting were not convinced that the proposals could safeguard the unique nature of the cemetery.
The council’s Licensing (Licensing & Gambling) Sub Committee approved the licence on Wednesday afternoon (January 12), but on the condition of reduced hours.
The hearing itself lasted well over four hours, with input from as many objectors who wished to take part, and including a long break during which panel members deliberated.
The committee decided to limit licensable activities at the Chapel to between 4pm and 9pm seven days a week.
Panel chair Cllr Galton said that planning matters and the lease couldn’t be taken into consideration when making the decision. And no representations had been received from ‘responsible authorities’ such as the police. But the panel had considered 72 written comments and oral representations at the hearing. And it noted the “strong local opposition” to the original application for licensed hours from noon until 11pm
During proceedings a number of speakers congratulated the applicant, design company 3 Men Squared Ltd, on its upkeep of the chapel over the last 17 years, since taking on the heritage building.
Concluding, Cllr Galton emphasised that where a licence is granted, an application for a review can be made in future where there’s evidence that licensing objectives aren’t being met.