Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill

Memorandum submitted by Gloucester City Council (PR 83)

Gloucester City Council has submitted comments during the consultation period for the ‘Balancing the Licensing Act 2003’ publication and we further welcome most of the proposals in the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act. I have a few additional comments to make regarding the proposals put forward.

Applicants to give greater consideration to the local area when making their application:

During 2008, Gloucester City Council wrote to the DCMS outlining a number of recommendations from our Scrutiny Committee following a review of the Licensing Act 2003. Amongst a number of recommendations, the following was noted:

Gloucester City Council considers that the provisions with regard to advertising applications not sufficient to protect the interests of local residents and businesses. In addition to the Public Notice in a local paper and the light blue A4 notices at the premises, applicants and or Local Licensing Authorities should be required to bring to the attention of residents and businesses in the vicinity of an application any application that requires advertising. We recommended that there be a requirement for a letter to be circulated by the Licensing Authority or the Applicant to those premises and businesses considered to be within the vicinity of the premises a licence is applied for.

These comments were acknowledged by DCMS however, nothing further was ever taken forward. Following the High Court case ‘Albert Court Residents Association & Ors, R (on the application of) v Corporation of the Hall of Arts & Sciences [2010] EWHC 393 (Admin) (02 March 2010)’ I consider our original recommendation of requesting applicants to bring the application to the attention of its nearby residents could restrict the area considered, however I understand that the Bill’s proposal to remove the definition vicinity, would further be difficult for any applicant to then decide what residents fall within the vicinity. If the proposal is to require applicants to give greater consideration to their area, maybe they could address this by liaising with the local Community Group/Parish Council to ensure nearby residents are considered.

At Gloucester City, we continue to receive complaints from members of the Public indicating that they have not seen the Public Notices advertised by the applicant, this happens even when the applicant has complied with the minimum requirements of the Licensing Act 2003 in respect of advertising the Public Notices. It is very easy to miss a Public Notice advertised in the local paper, as not everyone regularly purchases the local newspaper, and quite easy to miss the Notice displayed at or on the premises, as again not all local residents will walk past the premises or approach it regularly. Furthermore, the pale blue colour as prescribed by the Act, does not particularly stand out and attract attention. Could further consideration be given to the use of Public Notices, in regard to its positioning ‘at’ or ‘on’ a premises, and give consideration to its image and size to catch someone’s attention?

Making relevant licensing authorities responsible authorities:

We welcome the proposal to give more power to Licensing Authorities; however we would request guidance on the justification of a Licensing Authority making a representation. It further states the Authority would be able to refuse an application without representation. If an application was refused on the sole basis of the representation from the Licensing Authority the Applicant would be likely to challenge the decision.  If the relevant responsible authorities, namely the Police and Environmental Protection did not object (and therefore did not consider the application to be likely to have a negative impact on the objectives) it would currently be difficult to see how the Licensing Authority could justify its viewpoint when the ‘experts’ in their respective fields could see no issues with the application. In addition to the above it seems this proposal would remove the Licensing Authorities impartiality when advising applicants, interested parties and responsible authorities. Whilst we can see the benefits of the proposal we do have concerns regarding the potential for legal challenge and therefore further guidance to help Local Authorities justify these actions would be very welcome if these proposals are taken forward to avoid future challenges as mentioned above.

Increase the weight licensing authorities will have to give to relevant representations and objection notices from the Police:

All Licensing Authorities are already required to attach the appropriate weight to representations/notices from the Police, appropriate guidance to clarify this point would be welcome to help Local Authorities understand circumstances where this is not being applied accordingly.

Temporary Event Notices:

Further consideration needs to be given to the timescales of a hearing for a Temporary Event Notices, particularly in respect of late Notices. It is often difficult to arrange a hearing date for Temporary Event Notices due to the short timescales included, this will prove even more difficult for those Late Temporary Event Notices which the Police or EHO object to. It further prevents the applicant from lodging any Appeal against the Hearing determination until after the event date.

Persistently selling Alcohol to Children:

Where it is indicated that the Coalition is committed to allow Councils and the Police to permanently shut down any shop or bar found to be persistently selling alcohol to children. This wording is very confusing and needs re-consideration. I can see that the proposal is to review the Premises Licence in all cases with a view that the Licence will be revoked. Currently under the Licensing Act 2003 once a Licence is revoked the premises would be required a ‘New Licensing Application’ so revocation effectively closes that ‘Premises Licence’ permanently. The suggestion of permanently closing premises suggests those premises will be closed permanently; this suggestion conflicts with the requirements when we must allow for New Licence Applications applied for under a different Licence Holder. Unless however the proposal is based on a view that a location maybe permanently unsuitable?

January 2011