Published: 00:00, 23 May 2002
FURIOUS residents in Canterbury city centre claim they were gagged by a court from speaking out against a pub's application for later opening hours.
They have branded the licensing hearing "a disgrace" after a legal technicality prevented them from voicing their concerns.
Objectors turned out in force yesterday to hear the application by the Ha Ha Bar and Canteen in St Margaret's Street which requested a trial extension to its permitted hours.
Recently the city council's sub-licensing committee agreed to extending its public entertainment licence on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays until midnight for the first three months and until 12.30am for following three months.
Now that decision has been rubber-stamped by magistrates who, following a 10-minute hearing, granted the business an identical extension to its liquor licence. But a solicitor for Yates's, which owns the Ha Ha Bar, successfully argued that a letter of objection by the St Mildred's and St Margaret's Conservation Society was inadmissible because it was submitted two days late.
Neither was Cllr Nick Eden-Green, who attended the hearing to speak against the application on behalf of the residents, allowed to address the court. Afterwards a spokesman for SMACS said: "We were gagged and it was a disgrace.
"Residents are absolutely fuming about this. We just wanted the magistrates to hear our point of view." He added: "We don't doubt that the Ha Ha Bar is well run. It is what customers of these late night venues get up to when they leave which bothers us. It's the city centre residents who suffer the noise, nuisance and vandalism."
Cllr Eden-Green added: "I was hoping natural justice might prevail and the court would show us some discretion. But the clerk advised that it has to be done by the letter of the law and we were technically too late in getting out objection in.
"When this sort of thing happens it is little surprising the residents feel that no one is listening to them. I was very disappointed I could not represent their point of view."
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