Derbyshire theme park hotel gets green light to sell late-night booze

The Explorers Retreat hotel at Gulliver's Kingdom in Matlock Bath can sell alcohol until midnight every day of the week.
The Explorers Retreat hotel at Gulliver's Kingdom in Matlock Bath can sell alcohol until midnight every day of the week.

A Derbyshire theme park hotel has been granted permission for late-night alcohol sales.

The decision by Derbyshire Dales District Council means the Explorers Retreat hotel at Gulliver’s Kingdom can sell alcohol until midnight every day of the week.

It comes after a lengthy and fiery licensing hearing in Matlock on Monday, in which dozens of frustrated residents shared their outrage at the plans.

However, the district council appears to have found itself dealing with local and national planning policies which prevent it from taking many of the residents’ concerns into consideration.

It says ‘to refuse the licence would be in contradiction of government guidance’.

The council also says new licences should typically be granted and then monitored closely through conditions to ‘restrict nuisance to the surrounding neighbourhood.

Neighbours, council staff and the police can then lodge concerns which could see the Matlock Bath venue hauled back in for review and potentially stripped of its licence.

The council said in its decision notice: “The sub-committee in reaching their decision had to balance the obligation to encourage innovation by Explorers Retreat in adding hotel facilities to Gulliver’s Kingdom which will increase visitors to the park and local area, increasing jobs and income into the local economy, and the aims of protecting the public from noise nuisance and allowing the residents to have their say and that are wholeheartedly against the granting of the licence.”

Residents said during the hearing that the theme park is a ‘noisy, disruptive and inconsiderate neighbour”.

Jane Linfoot feared the application could see ‘hoards of taxis’ showing up at the venue between midnight and 1am and revellers would be ‘rampaging around the site’.

One resident said guests at the theme park had previously urinated and defecated in the woods behind her house and shouted abuse at her children.

Residents said Gulliver’s Kingdom frequently and consistently flouted the planning and licensing conditions attached to the site.

Piers Warne, of TLT Solicitors, representing Gulliver’s Kingdom, said all matters relating to the park itself were not relevant to the application – which focuses purely on the Explorers Retreat hotel.

The council agreed with this, but also said it ‘is reasonable to consider the evidence of how the applicant operates other premises that require a licence as direct evidence as to how they may operate the new licence’.

Officers said in the decision notice: “It is not unheard of that responsible authorities, for example the police, will object to a new licence on the basis that the applicant operates a licence elsewhere and that premise is causing problem.

“It is therefore reasonable for the sub-committee to put some weight to the complaints it heard from the neighbours, especially with the strength of the representations with 18 people making representations and approximately 30 people attending to either support their representations or to witness the sub-committee.”

Following the hearing, residents said that now they were fully aware of their rights and means of reporting complaints relating to licensing at the theme park – they would be monitoring it and the hotel closely.

Several residents said they had previously only gone through the theme park’s complaints system itself, due to persistent noise breaches – often relating to fireworks – and that these approaches were typically ignored.

The council says that, because it feels residents will review the licence ‘at the first sign of nuisance’, it must put in place particularly stringent conditions to avoid a review in the ‘near future’ and ‘cause disruption to the business’.

The council has agreed the hotel can sell alcohol from 11am until midnight every day, that films can be played in the rooms of the hotel 24 hours a day, live and recorded music can be played indoors at any pre-booked wedding or function from 11am until midnight, and late-night refreshments can be sold 11pm until 5am every day of the week.

Late-night refreshments would be restricted to hot drinks and non-alcoholic beverages.

One of the council’s conditions to avoid further noise complaints is to mandate that no waste glass bottles are emptied into containers for recycling between 8pm and 8am.

It has asked that two phone numbers are provided to neighbours to report complaints – which will be reviewed every six months to ensure they are up-to-date.

The hotel must also keep a complaints register for two years. This must be available on request to the police, environmental health or a council licensing officer.

Meanwhile, the venue must make sure it does not have bright lights directed at any surrounding homes.

There will also be no bookings taken from groups identifying themselves as hen or stag parties.

To avoid disturbance from wedding parties or functions hosted at the hotel, doors and windows must be closed from 5pm, earlier than the 8pm suggested by the applicant.

Guests are also not allowed to consume drinks outside after 5pm.

The council, signing off its decision, wrote: “The sub-committee believes that these conditions and proportionate and necessary in order to allow the premises to operate but elevate the concerns of the local residents.”

Eddie Bisknell , Local Democracy Reporting Service