The Director of Planning and Building Control reported that an application had been received from Little Vegas (NI) Limited for the provisional grant of an Amusement Permit.
She advised the Members that, at a meeting of the Licensing Committee held on 26 June 2013, the Committee had agreed to refuse the granting of an amusement permit to Little Vegas (NI) Ltd. for the ground and first floors of 163 Stranmillis Road. Subsequently, at a meeting on 21st August 2013, following the hearing of representations, it had agreed to grant an amusement permit for the ground floor of the premises only. An amusement permit had been held for the ground floor of 163 Stranmillis Road since October 2013 and the premises had operated as a gaming centre ever since.
The Director advised that the applicant company, which was the current amusement permit holder, now wished to also use the first floor of the premises which they had rented since 2013, as part of the amusement arcade, to develop the business and aid its recovery after the pandemic.
She reported that there was no mechanism within the Order to enable the variation of a permit, such as for the increase in the floor area being used for the amusement arcade, therefore, an application was required for the Provisional Grant or Grant of an Amusement Permit.
The application was for a total of 50 gaming machines, giving an increase of 25 machines over the existing arcade; all of which were to pay out a maximum all cash prize of £25.00. Admission to the arcade would be restricted to persons aged 18 or over.
The proposed opening hours of the premises, as specified on the application, were:
· Monday to Sunday: 10.00 a.m. to 10.00 p.m.
The current normal opening hours were indicated on the premises as being Monday – Saturday 11 a.m. – late and Sunday 1 p.m. to late, however, currently the amusement arcade was open on a trial basis from 3.00 p.m. – 3.00 a.m. (as indicated at the entrance and on the premises website).
She advised that no representations had been received in response to a public notice of the application and that both the PSNI and NIFRS had no objections to the application.
The Director advised that the Building Control Service had received 3 complaints concerning the premises, one in each of 2014, 2017 and 2018 and confirmed that each complaint had been resolved to the Service’s satisfaction
The Environmental Protection Unit / Night-time Noise Team had received 4 noise complaints, three in 2018 and one in 2019.
The Committee was advised that Planning permission for change of use of ground and first floor to an amusement arcade had been granted on the 8th July 2012. As the amusement arcade had been open since 2013, they would have established use rights to operate as an amusement arcade under Planning Legislation.
She reminded the Members that in an important Court of Appeal decision in June 1999, it had been confirmed that the Council, in determining applications for Amusement Permits, may take into account planning considerations but should be slow to differ from the views of the Planning Authority. The Court had also confirmed that the Council could consider matters such as location, structure, character and impact on neighbours and the surrounding area.
The Director outlined the evaluation of the application against the criteria contained within the Council’s Amusement Permit Policy and stated that, whilst the location of the permit application satisfied most criteria in the Amusement Permit Policy, it was not considered to meet criteria (dii). She explained that this criterion related to the proximity of proposed premises immediately adjacent to residential use. Having regard to the potential impact on residential amenity, the Permit Policy advises a precautionary approach by discouraging the opening of amusement arcades in such locations.
She advised that, should the Committee be minded to refuse the application for the Provisional Grant of the Permit, or to grant the Permit, subject to any discretionary conditions, that it would be required to advise the applicant of its intentions to do so and to afford the applicant the opportunity to make representation at a specified Licensing Committee meeting on the matter before making a final decision. She further reported that if, upon hearing the applicant, the Committee should refuse the application for the Provisional Grant of an Amusement Permit or decide to grant the application subject to discretionary conditions, the applicant could within 21 days from the date on which notice of the decision was served on him, appeal to the county court.
The Director, with the aid of a Power point presentation, provided an overview of the proposed location for the premises and demonstrated its proximately to residential property, highlighting that the proposed first floor location was immediately adjacent to No. 161a Stranmillis Road which was a 4-bed apartment currently licenced as an HMO that appeared to be occupied.
The Chairperson informed the Committee that the both the applicant and his architect were present at the meeting to answer any questions.
The Applicant, Mr. Conor Forbes, thanked the Members for the opportunity to address the Committee. He provided a brief overview of his business and alluded to the pressures that his business had faced during the Covid-19 pandemic, along with the rising energy and running costs that all businesses were now facing. He explained that he was currently paying rent and rates on three floors of this property and was keen to expand the business onto the second floor to develop the business and to help aid its recovery after the pandemic. He advised that the proposal was for an additional 25 gaming machines over the existing arcade (50 in total), with a maximum pay out of £25.00 to be accessed by persons aged 18 or over.
The applicant’s architect then addressed the Committee and provided an assurance that, if the Committee approved the application, sound proofing of the premises would be undertaken.
Following a query from a Member regarding the proposed opening times, the Applicant confirmed that it was proposed that the opening times for the first floor would be Monday to Sunday 10.00 a.m. – 10.00 p.m. The opening times of the ground floor business would remain unchanged (currently, Monday to Sunday 3.00 p.m. – 3.00 a.m.)
The Committee agreed that it was minded to refuse the application on the basis that it did not comply with the criterion of the Council’s Amusement Permit Policy, in that the first floor of the proposed premises was immediately adjacent to residential use property.