A rural Essex pub has been spared a total ban on having customers outside after claims of drug taking, clashes with police and people urinating and vomiting in neighbour’s gardens.

The Gardener’s Arms in Loughton received 153 noise complaints between 2020 and 2021, and residents said they were sworn at when they challenged the people outside their homes.

Only 30 people, seated at tables, will be allowed to drink outside the Epping Forest pub and the entire outside area will have to be cleared by 9pm, it was decided on Tuesday (April 19) by Epping Forest District Council.

Lawyers at a meeting of the council’s licensing sub committee meeting were pushing for no drinking at all to be allowed outside, but councillors stopped short of a total ban.

Andy Newman, a consultant representing the pub, said in the council meeting many of those causing the disruption may have been visiting the nearby green, rather than being customers of the pub.

He also claimed removing its ability to serve customers outdoors would effectively close it and many other neighbours and customers had not experienced antisocial behaviour there, some of whom had written to the council in its defence.

He said: “I was especially struck by the warmth and affection that people in there had for it.”

Later he said: “I accept there is division in the local community, but included in that is a huge amount of support.”

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Noise, numbers of customers and behaviour at the pub, which has been run by the current management for 34 years, has reportedly intensified since the coronavirus pandemic.

Several neighbours complained of intrusive noise late at night, as well as people using laughing gas and other drugs outside their homes.

Footage played at the meeting to evidence the noise and disruption faced by neighbours appears to show confrontations with police outside the pub.

Essex Police did not attend the meeting and made no representations regarding the community resilience team’s application to review the licence.

Additionally, residents were told to “f*** off and not live near the pub” when they challenged people screaming outside their doors, according to licensing barrister Gary Grant who represented five of the neighbours.

'Not delicate'

Mr Grant said: “My clients are not delicate wallflowers, they are strong women and men and they have been driven to despair by the antics of this pub in recent years, to the point where at least two, I won’t name them, have had to seek medical help for the anxiety and stress and are treated, and it’s as a direct result of the way the pub has operated.”

According to officers at the meeting, the pub had received several warnings since 2017, including a noise abatement notice, a community protection warning and minor changes to its licence.

However, officers monitoring the pub and visiting neighbouring properties observed these being breached.

'Divided community'

In addition to the 15 representations from residents in support of the application to review the licence, the council also received 23 in support of the pub.

Cllr Paul Keska (Con, Chipping Ongar, Greensted and Marden Ash) said: “I think it’s a great shame that this clearly was a community pub that pulled everyone together.

“What we’re seeing today is something that split the community, which is extremely sad.”