Bristol Rovers Supporters JFC are denied alcohol licence over public nuisance fears

Bristol Rovers Supporters Junior Football Club have been denied an alcohol licence at the ground in Church Road in Soundwell that they lease from South Gloucestershire Council amid concerns about public nuisance and car parking issues.

The club’s main site is at Southey Park in Kingswood but last year, due to membership expansion, the club also took over the public park and pavilion, pictured above on the left, next to Kingswood Leisure Centre.

They applied to the council to sell alcohol for consumption on and off the premises from 6pm to 9pm Monday to Friday and from noon to 10pm at weekends.

At their meeting on Wednesday, the council’s Licensing Sub-Committee heard from the club that the pavilion would not become a public bar but they just want to offer the same facilities to parents and visitors as at Southey Park, where they have no problems and enjoy a good relationship with the Friends of the park.

The club advised that they had applied for the licence as they need more revenue; they are responsible for the cost of upkeep and maintenance of the ground in Soundwell, including grass cutting, and the current COVID emergency has resulted in a substantial loss of income.

There were no objections to the application from the authorities, including the police, fire officer, planning, environmental health and environmental protection, safeguarding children’s services, trading standards and public health.

There were however 35 objections from people living nearby; concerns included the potential for anti-social behaviour in a park is used by families and dog walkers which is said to already be a magnet for groups to congregate, especially in the evenings. The impact on traffic and parking, particularly for pedestrians, as there are already congestion problems in the area was also raised, as were noise and litter, including the risk of broken glass. The need for a bar at a junior football club was also called into question.

The club, which pointed out that 30 of the letters of objections were identical, said they would have liked to have had an open evening for local residents but COVID regulations had prevented this. They wrote to the objectors to try to allay their fears, saying they would be operating under 30 conditions on the licence and pointing out that they operate at their other ground without incident and it has shown that by having a football team in regular attendance will actually reduce anti-social behaviour.

The club said car parking may be a problem in the area but the application would have no bearing on congestion. Alcohol consumption would only be the clubhouse and small outside area and there would be only plastic bottles and cups, no glass. They said the hours applied for are the maximum it would ever be used on a given day but would not be every day. They added that it was not in their interest to allow anti-social behaviour or littering as they are solely responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of the buildings and park.

One objector withdrew their complaint after receiving the club’s letter.

One objector spoke at the sub-committee at the meeting on Wednesday.

By two votes to one, the sub-committee refused the application on the grounds of public nuisance and parking concerns, as well as being concerned that there weren’t sufficient security measures in place for storing alcohol on the premises.

The club has the right to appeal to the magistrates’ court against the decision.