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BRISTOL: Community Garden licence

BRISTOL: Community Garden licence

Source: Google

A community garden in a Bristol park with a booze ban has won a licence to sell alcohol, despite neighbours fears the owners will use it as a “back door” route to turn the garden into a pub.

Redcatch Community Garden is a community benefit society that operates from the site of the old bowling green in Redcatch Park in Knowle.

The park is covered by a Public Space Protection Order (PSPO) prohibiting people from drinking alcohol there. It was introduced after drinking caused problems for park visitors.

The community garden at The Pavilion on Broad Walk hosts community and charitable events, and runs educational projects such as teaching school children how to grow vegetables and cook healthy meals.

It also runs a growing number of profit-making ventures, such as a pop-up restaurant on Friday nights, to reduce its reliance on grant funding, a licensing committee heard.

The society’s founders said they were applying for a permanent seven-day licence to sell alcohol from the garden between 10am and 10pm so they could continue to run the events without having to apply for a temporary licence every time, an exercise they said was time-consuming and costly for an organisation run mostly by volunteers.

But Gerald Galloway, who was among 21 residents who contacted the council about the application, told the licensing hearing on November 4: “I get the impression they’re trying to get a full pub licence through the back door.”

Mr Galloway said the park was the “wrong place” for a licenced venue, especially as the community garden has no toilets, so visitors use the public toilets “about ten yards” from a well-used children’s play area.

Katie Swain, one of the garden’s founders, said they had submitted a planning application to build public toilets within the community garden, but in the meantime directed visitors to use the public toilets in summer, as well as toilets in the Pavilion in winter.

The entrances to the garden are from the park, but it is surrounded by a six-foot fence and staff keep visitors from venturing out into the park with alcohol, the meeting heard.

Resident Yvonne Whittern said she was more concerned about the noise from the events, which she said was sometimes so loud it drowned out her television even though her double-glazed windows were shut.

“If I can’t sit in my house or my garden without having their music blaring in my ears, I object,” she said.

Mrs Whittern said she was “surprised” an alcohol licence would be permitted in a park where drinking was banned, and that, if granted, it could encourage drink driving and other anti-social behaviour that could pose a risk to the safety of children.

“Especially nowadays when people are using knives,” she said. “The moment they have alcohol in them, they lose all their inhibitions and they don’t know what they’re doing.”

The committee’s legal advisor said there was nothing to stop councillors granting an alcohol licence, as it was “completely separate” from the PSPO process.

Mrs Whittern’s daughter, Maria Hart, said she expected the number of events would rise at the community garden if it was granted a licence.

“I think they’ve gone from being a community garden growing veg and doing various good deeds to actually becoming more of an entertainment space to generate an income,” she said.

Co-founder Michael Cardwell, who has a background in events management, said the garden would hold up to 40 events per year, and had plans to sound-proof the venue’s marquee and build an earth mound to act as a sound barrier for the sheltered housing nearby.

“We’re not trying to run a pub garden here,” he said. “These are charity events and I think people expect to have a glass of wine with their meal. It’s quite reasonable.”

Knowle councillor Gary Hopkins said the community garden had been running for four years, and it would be “very damaging” to the area if it were not able to operate “freely”.

“They’re a huge benefit to the area and we’re lucky to have them,” he said. “They make donations to local needy organisations, they have improved the park, they train people in horticulture, they grow fresh vegetables, etcetera.

“I appreciate the concerns some residents close by actually have but…I believe the responsible operators [of the garden] will do everything within their power to make certain that they’re not a nuisance to anybody roundabout.”

Ms Swain said she and Mr Cardwell might have made “the odd mistake” in the past, but they had learned from them, and they did not want to do anything to jeopardise the project.

“We don’t want to be an organisation that starts and is solely reliant on funding and then fails, and then isn’t there anymore because it would break my heart,” she said. “So we need to run revenue-generating activities to offset some of the costs.”

The Bristol City Council committee granted the licence, subject to conditions agreed with pollution control officers and additional conditions imposed at the meeting.

The extra conditions require that amplified music does not disturb residents in their homes, notices are put up advising of any event planned to finish after 8pm, signs tell visitors to leave quietly, and any drinks sold as off-sales must be in sealed containers.

Words: Amanda Cameron, Local Democracy Reporter


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