‘Simply unviable’: City of London fails in booze licence bid for Hampstead Heath beauty spot

Hampstead Heath pergola. Photograph: Peter O’Connor / Wikicommons

Wedding guests will not be allowed to toast happy couples over concerns that the tranquility of a Hampstead Heath beauty spot could be disturbed.

The City of London Corporation, which cares for the Heath, wanted an alcohol licence for its romantic wedding venue at the Hill Garden and Pergola at West Heath.

Nearby residents feared an increase in noise.

The City also asked for permission to play live music at the events for up to 200 invited guests on Mondays to Saturdays and said everything would be over by 9pm.

Lawyer Matthew Lewin said proceeds from the events would help pay for the Grade II-listed pergola, where there would be a cap of 75 guests. The events would also be run by an experienced contractor and the alcohol licence would help make it viable for them.

It would have been the first alcohol licence granted on Hampstead Heath.

Since 2014, there have been 127 weddings and civil partnership celebrations there.

Lewin said: “It is a really spectacular and quite unusual structure. It is not hard, given how beautiful this part of the Heath is, to imagine why people would want to get married or have their civil partnership there.”

He said people want to “come together for a very special time with their loved ones”.

There had been no complaints about authorised events, he said.

“It is not unreasonable to expect residents to live alongside people gathering from time to time in that way for a relatively short period of time.”

Nearby residents at Inverforth House and Inverforth Close said they were concerned about the noise and traffic from guests.

Gary Grant, acting for Inverforth House residents, said: “It is astonishing that the City of London didn’t consult with residents.”

He added: “It is surprising and disturbing they said there had been no complaints from residents. There have been numerous complaints.”

Sir Harry Solomon, who has lived there for more than 20 years, “mainly for the tranquility”, said he would be “appalled” if the licence went ahead.

“It is completely the wrong thing for the heath –  which is for everybody –  to have commercial events.”

Acoustic expert Torben Andersen said modelling showed that the sound of 200 guests plus a string quartet would be “unacceptable” according to guidelines, and would also be a “red alert” for Camden’s noise rules.

Lawyer David Graham said his clients’ gardens in Inverforth Close were a few feet away from the pergola and would be disturbed.

Residents complained about “rowdy” after-hours unauthorised gatherings and anti-social behaviour and also said weddings caused “a high level of noise”.

Camden’s licensing committee rejected the application.

Chair Shah Miah said: “I think their homes are far too close. I simply don’t think it’s a viable thing.”

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