Daniel Thwaites, the Lancashire brewer and pub operator, has won a benchmark legal ruling that could severely limit the ability of local residents to oppose extended pub opening hours. The Morning Advertiser, the pub industry newspaper, reports that Thwaites won a High Court battle to overturn a cut in hours imposed by magistrates at one of its pubs on the Wirral. The company successfully sought a judicial review of the decision by Wirral magistrates to back a local residents’ association appeal against extended opening at the Saughall Hotel, Saughall Massie. The High Court ruled that the magistrates had no basis for reaching their decision because there was no evidence the extra hours had caused any problems in the village. The case is being viewed as a landmark ruling on the influence of residents’ objections to extra operating hours that do not conflict with the four licensing objectives in the new Licensing Act. Mrs Justice Black said the justices had no proper basis for reaching their decision to cut back the hours. She commented that the magistrates had admitted to the court they had let their own views override the evidence. The police had withdrawn their objections before the case went before the magistrates because they said no trouble had emanated from the hotel. The judge was also critical of claims by the residents’ that different opening hours of pubs would lead to “migration” – encouraging drinkers to move to different premises where extra hours operated. The Wirral bench had upheld objections to the new hours at the Saughall Hotel and had ruled weekend opening should be cut from 1am to midnight. Peter Coulson, the Morning Advertiser’s legal editor, and co-founder of M&C Report, said the decision sent a good signal to both magistrates and licensing committees on how they should view the statutory guidance on hours and the promotion of the licensing objectives. He said: “It highlights how important it is to take a balanced judgement and detached view of unfounded allegations and not allow personal prejudice to come into play in licensing matters.” Paul Howarth, retail director at Thwaites, now hopes that the decision will pave the way for clearer industry guidelines in the future. He said: “We strongly felt that we needed to see this case out to a successful conclusion for the benefit of all stakeholders involved in these applications on an on-going basis, whether that be pub operators, local authorities, magistrates, local residents or police. "This was never about Daniel Thwaites taking on a group of residents local to one of our pubs, and in that regard it is a very hollow victory because we always pride ourselves on being at the heart of the communities we serve."