The Building Control Manager submitted for the Committee’s consideration the following report:
“1.0 Purpose of Report/Summary of Main Issues
1.1 To make a final determination on an application for the Provisional Grant of an Amusement Permit under the Betting, Gaming, Lotteries and Amusements (Northern Ireland) Order 1985 (the Order).
Premises and Location
163 Stranmillis Road
Belfast, BT9 5AJ
Little Vegas (NI) Limited
Unit 7 and 8 Ardboe Business Park,
Co. Tyrone BT71 5BJ
2.1 In considering the application for the Provisional Grant of an Amusement Permit, the Committee shall have regard to the Order and Belfast City Council’s Amusement Permit Policy, as follows:
a) The fitness of the applicant to hold a Permit having regard to his character, reputation and financial standing, and
b) The fitness of any other person by whom the business is to be carried on under the Permit would be managed, or for whose benefit that business would be carried on,
c) In considering the fitness of a body corporate to hold an amusement permit, the Council shall also have regard to the character, reputation and financial standing of the directors of the body corporate and any other persons who have executive control of it and who have a financial interest in it, as if the permit were, or were proposed to be, held by them jointly
d) Representation, if any, from the sub-divisional commander of the Police Service of Northern Ireland in whose sub-division the premises are situated, and
e) Representation, if any, as a result of the public notices of advertisement.
2.2 The Committee is then required to make a decision based on the following options set out under the Order.
You must refuse the application unless satisfied that:
a) The applicant is a fit person to hold an Amusement Permit; and
b) The applicant will not allow the business proposed to be carried on under the Amusement Permit to be managed by, or carried on for the benefit of, a person other than the applicant who would himself be refused the grant of an Amusement Permit.
1) You may refuse the application after hearing any representations from third parties, or
2) You may grant the application, subject to the mandatory condition that the premises are not to be used for an unlawful purpose or as a resort of persons of known bad character, and
3) You may also grant the application subject to discretionary conditions outlined in the Order relating to the illumination of the premises, advertising of, and window displays on the premises and the display of information notices.
2.4 If, upon hearing the applicant, the Committee is minded to grant the permit provisionally, it is requested to consider delegating authority to the Director of Planning and Building Control, in consultation with the City Solicitor, to issue the permit once all necessary technical requirements relating to health, safety, welfare and amenity have been completed to the satisfaction of the Building Control Service.
2.5 Should the Committee refuse the application for the Provisional Grant of an Amusement Permit or decide to grant the application subject to discretionary conditions, the applicant may within 21 days from the date on which notice of the decision is served on him, appeal to the county court.
3.1 The Committee, at its meeting on 17th August 2022, agreed, after hearing from the applicant and their representative, that it was minded to refuse the application for the provisional grant of an Amusement Permit for the ground and first floors of 163 Stranmillis Road.
3.2 This decision was taken on the basis that the application 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.
3.3 A copy of the minute and the report from 17th August is attached at Appendix 1.
3.4 The Order requires that the Committee, when minded to refuse an application, must afford the applicant the opportunity to make representations at a specified Licensing Committee meeting on the matter before making a final determination on the application.
3.5 The applicant subsequently confirmed their desire to avail of the opportunity to make further representation and will be in attendance at your meeting together with their representatives.
4.0 Key Issues
4.1 The Directors of Little Vegas (NI) Limited are Conor Francis Forbes, Aine Forbes, Ciara Anne Forbes and Shea Michael Forbes.
4.2 A statement in support of the application has been provided for consideration and is included at Appendix 2.
4.3 The key matters outlined in the statement are that:
· Planning permission for the amusement premises (covering all floors) was granted in February 2012.
· The Health and Environmental Services Department was consulted on that 2012 permission and considered the proposal acceptable in the express context of the adjoining business and residential uses. Therefore, in the context of the original grant, and the Council's consideration of same, are identical.
· The amusement permit was first granted in 2013. There have been no objections to any of the renewals of the permit since 2013.
· The criterion (d) (ii) guidance cannot be considered as determining, because to do so ignores the same factual context that saw the planning permission granted in 2012.
· A fresh Noise Impact Assessment (‘NIA’) has been carried out for the proposal, and the expert advice is that there will be no noise disturbance.
· Notwithstanding the findings of the expert noise consultants, as a goodwill gesture, the applicant proposed additional noise attenuation to ensure no adverse impact.
Amusement Permit Policy
4.4 The Belfast City Council Amusement Permit Policy, ratified at Council on 1st May 2013, outlines those matters which may be taken into account in determining any amusement permit application and indicates that each application must be assessed on its own merits.
4.5 As outlined at the meeting on 17th August, it was concluded that whilst the location of the permit application satisfies most criteria in the Amusement Permit Policy it is not considered to meet criteria (dii). This criterion relates 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.
4.6 In response to the applicant’s appeal submission, the following points are made:
· Unlike planning policy, the Permit Policy places greater emphasis on the nature and operations of an amusement centre. These premises are currently open from 3.00pm until 3.00am Monday to Sunday – as indicated on the premises’ front door. Members may wish to consider the practicality of restricting first floor operations to 10.00pm.
· Impact on residential amenity does not solely relate to noise levels emanating from inside a property, it also relates to the level of activity generated by a business and, in particular, noise nuisance outside the premises.
4.7 Notwithstanding the above, the applicant has provided a noise impact assessment which outlines that noise levels are within recognised limits and should not adversely affect the amenity of residents in the adjacent property.
4.8 The Committee is reminded that, in addition to the above legal requirements and assessment criteria, it may take into account any matter which is deemed relevant. The Committee may depart from the Policy where it is appropriate to do so, although it is envisaged that this should only happen in exceptional circumstances.
4.9 A copy of the Council’s Amusement Permit Policy is included in the submission from the applicant attached in Appendix 2.
Financial and Resource Implications
5.1 Administration of Amusement Permit applications is included in current budgetary estimates.
Equality or Good Relations Implications/
Rural Needs Assessment
The Building Control Manager reminded the Members that at its meeting on 26th June 2013, it agreed to refuse the granting of an amusement permit to Little Vegas Ltd for the ground and first floors of 163 Stranmillis Road. Subsequently at the Committee’s meeting on 21st August 2013 following the hearing of representations, it was agreed to grant an amusement permit for the ground floor of the premises only.
It was reported that Mr. S. Beattie, Kings Counsel (KC), Mr. T. Bell, Planning Consultant and Mr. Forbes, the applicant were in attendance and invited them to make their representation on behalf of the applicant.
Mr. Beattie drew the Committee’s attention to a specific line in policy criterion 4 on page 9 of the policy and stated the policy did not cater for this scenario and that it was there to deal with renewals or new grants. He added that the policy did not subdivide the property/premises and the factual context of the application made it unique. He made it clear it was not a precedent case and was a case that in 2012, the planning authorities granted planning permission in which the Council was a consultee. He continued that in 2013, the Council granted an amusement permit for the property which had been renewed for 9 years with the exception of one year during the Covid-19 pandemic. Mr Beattie informed the Committee that there had been no objection to the renewals which it should take into consideration otherwise it would put the applicant at a disadvantage. Mr. Beattie stated that this was not a new grant on a greenfield site or a previously unlicenced site and that the planning context of the grant and each of the renewals had always been in the context of a mixed-use development which included residential use and nothing had changed. He advised that that there was no likely impact upon residential amenity in terms of noise. Mr. Beattie further advised that the applicant had offered to do further noise attenuation on the premises to further guarantee there would be no internal breakout of any possible noise. In terms, of the outside of the premises there had been no objections raised by Officers or by any member of the public in relation to the operation of the premises. Mr. Beattie informed the Committee that the applicant had checked the history of the premises and found one incident of someone having tethered a dog to the fence which had resulted in complaints and the individual concerned had been barred. Mr. Beattie provided the Committee with a summary whereby, the existing premises had operated as a good neighbour for 9 years and it would be wholly inappropriate for the policy to be rewritten to seek to make a subdivision between the ground and first floors and would be kept under scrutiny. He concluded that there would be an economic issue where the Rates would double and there was more than ample factual reasoning why the policy was not applicable and on this occasion should not be applied.
In response to a request from a Member, the Interim City Solicitor/Director of Legal and Civic Services provided policy clarification and confirmed that there would be circumstances where it would be appropriate to depart from the policy where factual circumstances warrant it. In response, Mr. Beattie stated that no government agency had set out what exceptional circumstances were. He added that he could not think of any other case where this had happened and asked would this make it exceptional.
For the purpose of clarity, the Building Control Manager advised that the Committee granted the amusement licence for the ground floor some time ago and there was no facility to extend an existing permit so the applicant now had to apply for a permit for the ground and first floors however, if that was refused the applicant would still have the ground floor to operate. He informed the Committee the matter was about whether it was appropriate to depart from the policy based on the exceptional circumstances.
Discussion ensued around conditions within the application and the fitness of the applicant.
The Committee granted the application, subject to the mandatory condition that the premises are not to be used for an unlawful purpose or as a resort of persons of known bad character.