Southend residents fear park will become huge ‘beer garden’

A Southend park could become the “biggest beer garden in Essex” if it is granted a licence to serve alcohol, residents fear.

Southchurch Park café has a applied for a premises licence to serve alcohol and to play music in an enclosed outside area during the summer months.

Southend City Council licensing committee met on Friday to consider the application after receiving 21 objections to the application from residents living near the park off Shaftesbury Avenue.

Resident Mark Alexander attended the hearing. He said: “Does it pose the danger, once they have an alcohol license in place, that people will stop going to their local pub because it only has three tables in the beer garden and potentially go to what could become Essex’s biggest beer garden with more antisocial behaviour and more noise, even without music?

“It will become a massive beer garden and a flashpoint for antisocial behaviour. With alcohol it’s a recipe for disaster.”

The applicant agreed opening hours would be from10am to 8pm. Amplified music would be played on Wednesday for a maximum of three hours during the school summer holidays and acoustic music would be played once a week from 12noon to 6pm and on Saturday and Sunday for a maximum of four hours from May to September. Alcohol would only be sold with food.

The council’s environmental protection officer, Paul Pearce, said he believed there would be “a very high risk that noise from the performance amplified music and singing will cause a public nuisance” that would have a “negative impact on health”.

The hearing was attended by Thorpe Ward councillors Martin Terry and Ron Woodley.

Cllr Terry said: “Are we saying someone comes of the beach and asks for a packet of peanuts and a pint. We need to be specific about that because I don’t want this to be used as an excuse to start flogging alcohol.”

Café owner Natasha Lovell agreed to only serve drinks with food defined as “a substantial meal, including sandwiches”.

Cllr Woodley added: “I am concerned about the noise factor and I’m hoping that officers are aware of residents’ concerns. There has been noise from the park into people’s homes.”

John Eves, representing Ms Lovell said: “Southchurch Park café has been a family run business since 1992. They only have good intentions to keep the café going and bring more people into the park and use the facilities the wonderful park has to offer.”

“In no way do they wish to upset any of its neighbours. It’s sad to say that over the years a lot of things have been removed from the park such as county cricket, mini golf, rowing boats and a lot tennis courts. It’s Natalie’s intention to try and keep the public interested in using the park.”

The committee is yet to announce its decision.

Christine Sexton

Local Democracy Reporter