Council licensing chiefs met today to consider whether to grant an alcohol licence to the pub giant for the old Elinor Lupton Centre in Headingley Lane – formerly part of Leeds Girls’ High School .
The decision now looks set to be made at some point in the coming week, following a hearing into its future today.
The pub chain told a meeting of Leeds City Council’s licensing sub-committee it would invest £3m bringing the building back into use, adding it would run ‘modest’ opening hours, not allow Otley Run-goers to enter, and be family friendly.
But local residents claimed the site would exacerbate problems with alcohol-related antisocial behaviour in the area – with one nearby resident worried gardens would become a ‘lavatories’ for intoxicated pub-goers.
A previous application for the site had been rejected in 2016, and then the following year by a judge on appeal. Wetherspoons said it had submitted the new proposal due to recent relaxations of the strict licensing policies – known as CIPs – that used to cover the area.
A representative of Wetherspoons said: “The site is in considerable disrepair both internally and externally – investment is needed in the region of £3m to bring it back into use.
“There would not be music or entertainment of any type at the venue. There will not be any disco or any karaoke – there will be small televisions showing terrestrial sport and the news.
“There are no happy hours or any promotions to encourage people to drink faster. It is socially inclusive – there is no barrier to price to anyone who wants to enjoy food and drink.”
Plans for the site would see the pub serving alcohol from 9am-10.30pm on Sunday to Thursday, and 9am-11pm on Fridays and Saturdays. The representative added the site would have no entertainment or music, and would only show terrestrial sports and news on small televisions.
“One area of concern is the Otley Run,” he added. “We hear that loud and clear and we do not want to add to that.
“We will not allow entry to participants of the Otley Run. That will be enforced by door staff and signage – the premises on the Otley Run are clearly defined.
“That reputation will become known.
“You are not going to see a migration of customers to these premises late at night – it will be the opposite – if you want to drink after 10.30pm on a weeknight, you will have to go to other premises.
“Students will use the pub, but it is inclusive. The premises will be family friendly – there is a children’s menu – and children and families are welcome.
“Local families and children have nothing to fear from this pub.”
The meeting was told an original application for the site was rejected in 2016, before an appeal was thrown out by a district judge the following year.
Back in 2016, the area was covered by a cumulative impact policy (CIP), which required premises wanting an alcohol licence to prove beyond doubt that they would not add to local alcohol-related antisocial behaviour problems. The CIP is no longer in place in the area.
Representing the company Arc Inspirations, which runs a nearby bar, Paddy Whur told the meeting that the CIP had nothing to do with the previous rejection, and that the principles against the site had not changed.
He said: “The CIP previously was not a relevant consideration. It is the same application and it will ave the same impact.
“A premises with the capacity for 500 can’t promote the licensing objectives when it is situated right in the middle of all those chimney pots.
Quoting from the district judge, who rejected an appeal from Wetherspoons in 2017, he said it was ‘inconcievable’ that there there would be no impact from the Otley Run.
He added: “It doesn’t want to be a student pub but two thirds of those residents are students.
“While we are not in a CIP anymore, all those factors are still in place today. There are still shots offered for the same price.
“On the legal test against guidance documents and your local policy, it would be right to refuse this application.”
Local resident Jane Norton, who has lived in the area for a number of years, told the panel: “With the influx of students came a drinking culture. Headingley gained a reputation as an excellent place to get drunk.
“Headingley Hill has always been a densely populated residential area with two primary schools and no licensed premises.
“It is already blighted by drunks – noise, intimidating behaviour, broken glass, urination and vomiting.”
Mrs Norton suggested that large groups of students in fancy dress were not the only problem when it came to antisocial behaviour.
She added: “I have already had a terrifying experience of a drunk, middle-aged man in ordinary clothes trying to batter my door down late at night.
“Older drinkers in small groups not in fancy dress are now participants [of the Otley Run]. It is hard to tell which groups are involved in the pub crawl.”
Richard Tyler, a resident who claimed to live around 100 yards from the building, said: “This application is extremely worrying.
“The impact will be on the surrounding streets. There is no high street – student drinkers will have to come here through residential streets.
“Our gardens will become lavatories – vomiting, urinating and defecating will become the norm – we experience this sometimes already.”
Responding to the issues raised by objectors, the Wetherspoons representative said: “This isn’t a re-run of the previous licensing consideration in 2016 – this is a fresh application.
“There has been a material alteration and that is the removal of the CIP, that is significant, because lots of the objections to this application have related to CIP issues, and they are caused by existing premises in Headingley.
“We have addressed some of the key issues. There is no reason to think those conditions will not be adhered to.
“Residents are nearby, but Otley Road is one of Leeds’s main arterial routes. People will come to that pub through Headingley and Hyde Park.
“There will be people who disperse to the rear, but no more so than from other pubs in Headingley or in Leeds. Those steps have come from consultation with the residents and the ward councillor.
“The issue of community has been addressed by planning. The hours of operation were modest.”
After deliberating in private for around 10 minutes, the committee announced that, due to the amount of information, it could not come to a decision during that meeting, and hoped to make an announcement over the next week.