The Windsor Castle Inn in Exeter may never reopen as a pub after noise concerns led to councillors refusing to grant it a premises licence.

A litany of complaints relating to loud swearing, ranting inside the pub, talentless and drunken karaoke sessions, music from the jukebox, and even the noise of the quizmaster asking questions for a pub quiz were relayed to Exeter City Council’s licensing sub-committee on Friday afternoon.

The Heavitree pub on North Street shut its doors last year after the previous tenant left the pub and surrendered the premises licence, and residents have told how the area had become an oasis since then, and that ‘you can now walk the pub without getting high’.

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Howard Property Lettings Ltd, owners of the pub, had applied for a brand new premises licence, including live music, recorded music, the selling of alcohol and opening hours following the licence being surrounded by the previous tenant when they left last year.

 

But the licensing sub-committee rejected the application on the grounds that noise from the pub would be a public nuisance.

Tammy Dyer, director of Howard Property Lettings, told the committee that the company were ‘in limbo’ after an administrative error meant they forget to transfer the licence back to the company.

It meant that she cannot market the property as a pub as it doesn’t have a premises licence but that they cannot market it for alternative uses either as they city council planners told her that they haven’t demonstrated that there is no community value or there was a local amenity in retaining the pub.

 

Mrs Dyer said: “We need to draw a line under this as to whether it should be licenced or whether we need to do something else with it. If it doesn’t have a licence then can go back to planning route and try and move forward for something different as it is clear that the environmental health officer and residents don’t want it to be a pub. But at the moment, it is just a building that cannot be used for anything.”

Asked by a member of the public whether they would reopen the pub while it was still on the market if a licence was granted, Mrs Dyer said that she didn’t know.

Exeter City Council’s environmental health officer Martin Westcott said that in his opinion, the Windsor Castle premises should never operate as a pub again.

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He added: “Over a period of several years from 2012, numerous noise complaints were received by the environmental health department from the pub. The complaints were received from several different complainants who were living either side of the public house as well as from opposite.

“Recording equipment was later installed into a complainant’s property and the music levels were found to be so high that it constituted a statutory nuisance – this then resulted in a noise abatement notice being served on the Landlord of the Windsor Inn.

“As a result of the public house being a terrace property and next door and in close proximity to numerous domestic properties I do not believe that this premises should ever operate as a public house as it is unfair to the residents living nearby and it would be far more appropriate that it operated as domestic accommodation whether this be as a house or flats.”

 

He added: “I have never had so many complaints from any property as this while doing the job, and the complaints vary from the jukebox, to the karaoke, pub singer, disco music, people shouting inside the premise, and even a quiz night, the noise from the quizmaster could be heard.

“I just feel it should be a domestic property and if it was a pub, we would get further complaints and be back to square one. There will be further problems for residents and whoever runs the pub in the future, then I foresee difficulties because of the poor soundproofing.”

Objections from nearby residents added that reopening the pub would be ‘the worst possible decision’ and that since it has closed the area has become an oasis and that ‘you can now walk the pub without getting high’.

One resident, who lives close to the pub, said: “Previous landlords have attracted the worst sort of clientele to the Windsor Castle, and as a result it has become known as one of the roughest pubs in Exeter. The clientele is drawn not from Heavitree itself, but from other parts of town.

 

“The pub is in no sense whatsoever a ‘local’: I can honestly say that I have never seen a single local resident go into the pub and since the pub shut, there were 10-15 people in the area who were full time residents of the pub who I have never seen since.

“On the contrary, local people cross the road to avoid encountering pub customers hanging round in the doorway. I cannot stress enough that the Windsor Castle is not any sense whatsoever a ‘local amenity’. It is the total opposite. The pub and its clientele are totally alien to Heavitree and no local people would be seen dead in a pub like that.

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“Heavitree is turning it a pleasant residential neighbourhood and against that background pub is an anomaly. The pub is a magnet for problem drinkers but its location is no place whatsoever for a pub.”

He added: “The kind of behaviour we and the residents of Heavitree are subjected to by the pub’s clientele, including loud swearing, arguing, ranting inside the pub, abuse screamed down mobile phones, loud music and talentless, drunken karaoke sessions at the weekend, drunken fights outside the pub – we have called the police twice and glower displays outside our house ripped down, our front door urinated on, vomit and broken glass in the lane beside our house.”

 

Another resident who lives two doors from the pub said that they couldn’t enjoy their garden because of the noise, adding: “I hope it doesn’t get the licence as turned into a lovely area again now it has closed.”

A third simply said: “You have a choice – to bless or blight the community.”

Cllr Rob Newby said that while he had heard a long list of complaints from residents, there was no representation or objection from the police against the pub reopening and no incident log provided or any of the incidents occurring, to which residents said that they had reported the incident.

Cllr Ian Quance added: “I don’t mean to feel unsympathetic towards the residents, many of you have clearly lived there for a long time, but are the objections based things having got worse in recent years, or is it simply because there is a pub nearby?”

In response, residents said that they didn’t remember things being as bad when they first moved in.

 

Announcing the decision of the committee after their 20 minutes of deliberations, Cllr Newby said: “We have concluded that given its proximity to residential properties, this would impact on the licensing objective of public nuisance.

“The application is not thought out given its location and if granted in its current form, there would be a public nuisance in the noise created. The application didn’t address the issue of sound from the premise and how it could be reduced. Therefore the application is refused.”

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