The Live Music Forum

Hamish Birchall Bulletin

Friday 21st August 2009 - St Albans may breach licence condition guidelines

'I am passionate about licensing', declares Lesley Cameron, principal licensing officer at St Albans council, and chair of the Home Counties section of the Institute of Licensing:

Today Ms Cameron is in the news again, blaming licensees for a long list of restrictions on the number of musicians and music genres imposed as licence conditions on pubs by St Albans council:

Once again her defence is disingenuous. Licensees or their representatives only propose restrictions on performer numbers or music genres because they know that the council is likely reject live music applications otherwise.

But it seems that St Albans may be in breach of guidelines published by the Institute of Licensing. Their code of practice on licence conditions requires that these must be reasonable, necessary and proportionate:

There is no automatic link between noise and music genres or the number of performers. This is indeed the government position, and one reason why they abolished the old exemption for one or two performers:

'We proposed that the current exemption from public entertainment licensing that allows two musicians to perform live in premises licensed for the sale of alcohol should end. This is because one or two live musicians using powerful microphones and amplifiers can make more noise and so generate more nuisance for local residents than three without.'
Kim Howells MP, then licensing minister, written answer House of Commons 23 April 2002

Licence conditions which, on the grounds of potential noise nuisance, make it a criminal offence to have more than two or three musicians or to play certain genres of music cannot be reasonable, necessary or proportionate. They may also be unlawful, and open to legal challenge as unnecessary restrictions of the right to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly.

I put this to St Albans council this morning and await their response.


Hamish Birchall