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Redbridge Council’s “leisure partner” is facing strident community opposition to its plan to host summer events and serve alcohol on a Wanstead green.
Vision Redbridge, which runs the borough’s leisure and culture facilities for the council, applied in February to alter its licence to provide entertainment on Christchurch Green.
Vision insisted the changes, which would allow it to host events until 11pm on Fridays and Saturdays or 10pm otherwise, were a “precautionary measure given the popularity of the site”.
More than 50 objectors argued the change would disturb the green’s neighbours, also objecting to comments from council leadership that some felt showed “the decision has already been made”.
At a hearing on April 8, the council’s licensing committee decided to adjourn, arguing the changes to the licence were so significant that Vision needed to submit an entirely new one.
Wanstead Fringe chairman Giles Wilson came forward in support of the application, writing that the event had struggled with the “shortage of attractive venues in Wanstead”.
He wrote to the committee: “We believe good use would be made of the venue and would ourselves want to be hosting events there.”
In a council press release published on March 6, deputy leader Cllr Kam Rai also spoke glowingly about the plans, commenting: “With summer approaching, we want to support local people to enjoy our parks and green spaces as much as possible.”
The release notes that Vision was granted a similar licence in 2011 and states the cafe kiosk located on the green “will have an alcohol licence providing a limited offering”.
In an objection to the committee, objector Allan Banwell argued these comments suggest “the decision has already been made” and that the consultation with residents was thus “an insult and a waste of time”.
He added: “I find it hard to believe that (Cllr Rai) sees a kiosk selling alcohol until twilight on special occasions as a step in the right direction.
“I dread to think what happens if large scale events occur, particularly if alcohol is allowed.
“I see problems like anti-social behaviour stemming from the sale and consumption of alcohol becoming a major concern on Christchurch Green.
“Also cafes, restaurants and pubs on our High Street have suffered greatly over the past year and need our support. A venue on the green selling alcohol seems very unsupportive.”
Like many objectors, he referenced an increase in late-night use of the green and littering over the summer months last year.
Another opponent, Charlotte Butler, wrote: “We have a huge issue with large gatherings, drug use, fights and urinating in the park and this is without the current extension.
“Extending events and alcohol until 10pm will make this situation worse. We are currently petitioning for the park to close at 8pm like similar parks in Redbridge.”
After a short deliberation on April 8, members of the licensing committee refused to hear further evidence about the application, instead telling Vision to resubmit.
It was deemed that the addition of alcohol sales was such a dramatic change that it would require an entirely new licence, rather than a change to the old one.
Vision does not appear to have submitted a new licence application yet, according to the public register published on the council’s website.