A FREEMASONS hall in Chipping Sodbury can now be hired out for private parties despite concerns about access and noise.

Neighbours warned that the narrow drive leading to the hall causes road safety issues while events already held there can often be too noisy.

The Sodbury Masonic Hall, on Hatters Lane in the town centre, was granted a premises licence by South Gloucestershire Council last month.

This means the bar inside the hall can sell alcohol until 11pm, for events like wedding receptions.

But residents living nearby urged the council’s licensing department not to grant the licence.

They raised concerns about drunken revellers causing a nuisance late at night, as well as problems with the narrow lane leading to the hall, where one lorry recently almost got stuck.

David Roberts, a solicitor representing the hall, told a licensing hearing on December 14 that the new premises licence would likely mean private events being held once or twice a month.

He reassured neighbours that it wouldn’t lead to the hall becoming a nightclub or pub.

He said: “This is not an application for a new nightclub or a new licensed public house. This is to facilitate more flexibly how the hall is used. The premises is home to five different masonic lodges. It’s also used as a community base for a number of other organisations, including the Historical Society and the Women’s Institute.

“If somebody wanted to use the hall and hire it out for a private event — it might be a family party or a small wedding reception — [the new licence] gives them the flexibility to do that. Under the current club premises certificate, they aren’t authorised to sell alcohol to anybody other than their members and their guests.”

He added that no alcohol would be drunk outside of the premises, and there would be no increase in deliveries despite the extra events. But one neighbour wrote to the council detailing how lorries already struggle to deliver alcohol to the hall.

They included photos showing one lorry squeezed into the narrow lane, with its driver unable to walk past.

Instead, the lorry driver climbed on top of a wall and walked along it to return to the front of the vehicle.

The neighbour said: “Living next to these premises, we have already observed that when large vehicles arrive for events, they have had great problems negotiating the narrow access to unload to the rear of the building. When trapped by the narrow width of the drive, these vehicles then need to reverse out of the junction — a dangerous manoeuvre.

“In order to unload, the dray had to reverse into the drive, which held up traffic at a dangerous junction. The dray is such a tight fit that the driver had to exit and return to the vehicle via a walk along our wall, which was not built to withstand regular climbing.”

However, Mr Roberts, the licensing solicitor, said this was likely “an exception”.

He added that the hall owners could write to the brewery to ask their drivers to be more cautious.

He said: “That’s not something that’s condoned by ourselves. The burden is on the brewery to ensure that appropriate risk assessments are in place and that they’re complied with by their drivers. This, I suspect, is an exception rather than the norm.”