PUB operator Wetherspoon was applying for permission to keep its giant Postern Gate pub in York's Piccadilly open until 2am.

It also wanted permission to open the pub as late as 3am on occasions such as Burns Night, Australia Day and patron saints days.

It is seeking to open as early as 7am on some days of the week, taking it to within a few hours of 24-hour opening.

But the application to City of York Council has already been greeted with protests from one of the organisers of a petition opposing late-night drinking in residential areas across York.

Maria Dodd spoke of her concerns about late-night disturbance for people living in the Piccadilly area, who she said, included elderly people and young families.

She claimed that plans to extend drinking hours came at a time of increasing concern about binge-drinking and its "indisputable" links to drunken violence.

The petition was sparked by plans for a late licence at the Barbican Centre but calls on councillors to block all late licences in residential areas if there is opposition from local residents.

Maria said it had been signed by almost 700 people. "We have discovered there's a great deal of concern out there," she said.

However, a Wetherspoon spokesman said the pub was well-run, with first class staff. "We are a responsible operator, and would not want to cause any problems for local residents," he said.

"If we did open late and there were any problems, we would deal with them there and then."

He said the company simply wanted the flexibility to open until late if wanted, and added: "The Posterngate has been a very successful Wetherspoon pub in York. The company has made an application for extended hours under new Government legislation. The decision on whether to grant this will be made by the local authority."

Under the application, the company is also seeking a series of other changes to its licence. It wants to be able to allow credit sales, allow children under 16 in the bar if accompanied and remove drinking-up time restrictions.

The spokesman said these were simply an attempt to "tidy up" some legal issues with the local authority.

A council spokeswoman said that anyone wishing to comment on the application should write to: City of York Council, Licensing Section, 9 St Leonard's Place, York, by May 3.

Updated: 10:27 Wednesday, April 27, 2005