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CONCERNS: Manchester Arena licence changes opposed

CONCERNS: Manchester Arena licence changes opposed

Manchester Arena licence changes opposed by police and council, Image: Google Maps

Police and council officials have objected to changes to the Manchester Arena’s licence due to concerns around the level of counter-terrorism training for staff, supply of first aid and CCTV access.

SMG, the operators of the AO Arena, have submitted plans to revamp its operations schedule, which sets out how the venue will prevent crime, disorder and public nuisance, as well as protect the safety of the public and children from harm.

It would be the first changes to the existing licence since it was granted in 2005, and since the terrorist attack at the arena in 2017 which killed 22 people.

While the principle is supported by Greater Manchester Police and Manchester council’s licensing officers, the authorities are opposed to the application in its current form.

They suggest that the plan ‘lacks specific detail’ and is ‘not robust enough’ on issues such as counter-terrorism, staff training, CCTV, first aid and noise management.

Calls have also been made for a ‘greater buy-in’ to tackle illegal street traders selling counterfeit merchandise outside the arena which pose ‘not only a dispersal issue but should also be considered as a means for implementing a hostile attack’.

SMG said they have provided further information to GMP and the council and ‘continue to work with all parties to confirm the terms of the renewed licence’.

The application proposes the introduction of a new operational management plan (OMP) that would be ‘reviewed and revised’ when planning for specific events at the arena.

It would include a counterterrorism and security plan complying with the proposed Protect Duty, a new law which would impose a legal obligation on organisations to consider the safety and security of staff and the public using their venues.

The legislation aligns with ‘Martyn’s Law’, a campaign for stricter security measures named after Martyn Hett, one of the victims of the Manchester Arena bombing.

In his written objection PC Alan Isherwood of GMP said the procedures within the operational management plan were to be expected but the force had so far seen no further details apart from a ‘non-exhaustive list’.

PC Isherwood said: “GMP would have expected to have had sight of an overarching OMP which would form the framework for how all events are managed and then examples of event specific plans and procedures so that we could see whether they stood up to scrutiny and were fit for purpose.

“The application states that a specific event, written risk assessment form will be completed and made available for any event that is carried on by any person not affiliated with the venue which implies that they wouldn’t have to do this for an act or show that was affiliated to the venue, but this could result in a situation where numerous events were not risk assessed.”

GMP also wants the CCTV operation at the arena to be in operation 24 hours a day to help with investigating complaints, but SMG have specified that it would only be enforced ‘whilst the premises are open for licensable activity’.

There are also concerns that some events might not be risk assessed as the application says risk assessments would only be carried out and made available to the licensing authorities for events ‘not affiliated with the venue’.

PC Isherwood added: “GMP completely understands the intention to make the premises licence more fit for purpose but until our concerns, which are outlined in this representation, are satisfied we would not support the variation being granted.”

Manchester council’s licensing and out of hours compliance team raised similar issues in their objection to the current application.

SMG have been asked to provide more information on the proposed provision of appropriate medical equipment at the venue, particularly in the event of an emergency.

Before the pandemic the arena had received 10 complaints regarding noise relating to sound testing and the setup or dismantling of event stages.

Officers say they are currently unable to confirm if the OMP has sufficient measures to deal with such issues, including the monitoring of a new smoking area.

In July, Manchester council adopted licensing conditions in line with Martyn’s Law and the Protect Duty, including training requirements for staff at the venue.

Fraser Swift, principal licensing officer for the authority, said: “It is unclear from the proposed operating schedule how far the training in place at the Arena would extend.

“The chair to the Arena Inquiry has made a number of recommendations in Volume 1 of his report, and we consider it appropriate that these are demonstrably addressed in the proposed operating schedule, particularly those that relate to operational matters relevant to promotion of the licensing objectives at this venue.

“We welcome the OMP but consider that more information is needed on the purpose, scope, role and process of how they would operate in practice so as to ensure the promotion of the licensing objectives.”

The application and objections are due to be considered by a hearing convened by Manchester council’s licensing subcommittee panel on Monday, October 11.

Speaking ahead of the meeting, a SMG spokesperson said: “In January this year, SMG contacted the Manchester City Council licensing authority to propose that the existing premises licence be updated.

“This licence has been in place in one form or another since 1995 and the application we have made was issued by SMG proactively, rather than as a consequence of any review by the licensing authority or similar.

“Both the licencing authority and GMP are supportive of the application and the approach taken by SMG.

“As is a normal course of action, SMG has been invited to provide further information to the Licencing Authority and Greater Manchester Police.

“This has already been provided and we continue to work with all parties to confirm the terms of the renewed licence.”


Words: Niall Griffiths, Local Democracy Reporter

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