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Baroness Blackstone moved Amendments Nos. 83 and 84:

    Page 16, line 38, after "made" insert "under section 17(5)(a)"

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Clause 30 [Determination of application for provisional statement]:

[Amendments Nos. 85 to 89 not moved.]

Baroness Buscombe moved Amendment No. 90:

    Page 17, line 43, at end insert—

"( ) From issue, provisional statements granted under this section shall have effect for three years."

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I was encouraged by the Minister's response to the previous amendment in relation to Amendments Nos. 90 and 93. As drafted, Clause 31(3) allows a "relevant person" to raise objections to the opening of licensed premises following construction, even though no such objections were raised at the time of the operator's application for a provisional statement. It appears that objections can be raised where the individual concerned can show that he or she could not have raised that objection at the time of the original provisional statement or had a good reason for failing to do so. Similarly, objections can be raised where there has been a material change in circumstances relating to the premises or to the area in the vicinity of those premises.

The creation of a power to object, following the completion of a development, creates a substantial, potentially insurmountable, barrier to investment. The retail and leisure industries are major players in assisting the achievement of regeneration policy across the United Kingdom. But operators, developers or lenders in respect of a project to construct a new

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supermarket, hotel, leisure centre or public house will be unable to establish whether a local residential property is likely to change hands prior to the completion of their project, thus creating the risk of a late objection.

The Explanatory Notes give the example of a local resident being in hospital as a reason for having failed to object earlier. Presumably, an opportunity to object would also arise if the householder could establish that they were, for example, on vacation at the time that the original application was advertised.

How could any developer protect himself against such an eventuality? The amendment would provide for a closer alignment between licensing law and planning law and would provide more certainty for operators. It is proposed that provisional statements should be time-limited in the same way as planning consents and should have the same three or five-year time frame. We assume that that will be confirmed in the next planning Bill, which we hope to see. Provided building works are started within the life of the planning consent, there should be no grounds for a second round of representations on the planning consent or the provisional statement. However, if work has not started within the appropriate period, the planning consent and provisional statements expire, but can be renewed, with representation invited if there are any material changes in circumstances.

That is a sensible solution that is mindful of the rights of those living in the locality to make representations, but also provides a necessary level of certainty for operators, which is crucial to avoid inhibiting future retail and leisure investment. I beg to move.

Lord Williamson of Horton: My Lords, I declare an interest as a non-executive director of Whitbread plc. I try to deal with issues on this Bill that in my view are of practical significance. I support Amendment No. 90. It is clear from our discussions on a number of clauses that we have to keep a balance between two sets of interests. In this case, we need a balance between the possibility for representations to be made and properly considered in Clause 30—there is nothing wrong with subsections (1) to (7)—and some element of stability or at least some years of certainty for the proper planning of the provision of new premises or the renovation, development or improvement of premises.

We have a full system for representations. There is no difficulty about that. However, Clause 31, headed, "Restriction on representations following provisional statement" —but not, "exclusion of representations"—refers clearly to:


    (a) the application for the premises licence is an application for a licence in the same form as the licence described in the application for the provisional statement, and

    (b) the work described in the schedule of works accompanying the application for that statement has been satisfactorily completed".

I commend that drafting to the Plain English Campaign. It is clearly intelligible: there has been no substantive change. Surely, if there has been an

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opportunity for representations on the provisional statement and there has been no substantive change, we need to be able to give a clear assurance that no further representations will derail what has already been agreed.

A company or an individual hotel, pub or restaurant owner might well hesitate to carry on with their plans for new premises or amendments or improvements to premises if they might be derailed later, when resources had already been committed to the improvement. This is a modest amendment that would give an assurance of stability to the developers of new or renovated premises for three years. That is not a lot to ask. It seems reasonable and I support it.

4.15 p.m.

Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts: My Lords, I have two amendments in this group and have added my name to a third. We discussed the issue at length in Committee. The noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, and I clashed over the use of "and" or "or". The source of our confusion was that the Explanatory Notes said "or" and the Bill said "and".

The issue is the second bite at the cherry. We have talked at length about the need to promote investment and the necessary timescale. The heart of our difficulty relates to the material change in circumstances specified in Clause 31(3)(b), particularly the words,

    "to the area in the vicinity of".

I had hoped for some clarification in the guidance notes, but paragraph 6.53 on page 41 more or less repeats what is in the Bill. There are concerns about how material changes in circumstances and the area in the vicinity could be interpreted. For example, it has been put to me that the construction of a block of flats close to the proposed location after the original provisional statement could be a change to the area in the vicinity, so the people who moved into the flats should have a chance to object. Another example was soaring crime figures in the area, which could be a change in circumstances that might give rise to the chance of restricting the original proposals.

The costs of a subsequent refusal are a considerable issue. However, restrictive conditions that were not originally envisaged being imposed on the premises licence would be a less draconian but still very expensive outcome. Such conditions could include a reduction in the allowed opening hours or a reduction in capacity. That could change or undermine the commercial viability of the project. Perhaps the most likely outcome is that the opening of the premises would be delayed while the lawyers fought out exactly what the two phrases in question meant, during which time the fully kitted out entertainment facility—a pub or whatever—would be eating interest costs, unable to be opened. That would also be unsatisfactory.

I have no problems with the three-year timescale proposed by my noble friend in Amendment No. 90. If the operator or developer chooses to change the situation completely and does not complete the works in the way that was originally envisaged, all bets are off. However, the current drafting leaves open the

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possibility of developers of entertainment facilities who have acted in good faith being undermined by people with an axe to grind. I strongly support my noble friend's amendment.

Lord Avebury: My Lords, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts, only to the extent that the wording of the guidance is more or less identical to the Bill and does not give any further interpretation of what is meant by material changes of circumstances to the premises or to the area in the vicinity.

I have a different anxiety, which arises from our debate on the last amendment, when the Government opposed the presentation of information about opening hours in the application for a provisional statement. It is possible for a person to have complied with all the requirements to get a provisional statement by saying that he wishes to convert the premises from their existing use within the A3 user class—for example, there might be a series of cafés next door to one another—into a larger establishment to be used for drinking purposes. As we heard earlier, he would not have to say what the opening hours would be. What happens if the potential objectors in the vicinity think that it will be an ordinary establishment that closes at 11 o'clock, but when the operating schedule is submitted for the full licence they find that the proposal is to open it until 3 o'clock in the morning? Will that be a material change of circumstances which restores the right that would otherwise be excluded under Clause 18(6)(d)? There may be a misprint in Clause 31(2) with reference to Clause 18(6)(d), which the noble Baroness may wish to address, but that is a small point.

However, there is a serious point here as regards the rights of objectors to make representations where the nature of the occupation of premises changes between the issuing of the provisional statement and the application for the full licence. Therefore, I should like the Minister who will reply to satisfy your Lordships that representations will not be excluded in cases where no one had any reason to suspect that the premises would be open until three or four o'clock in the morning at the time the provisional statement was issued but people were then suddenly confronted with that situation at the time of the licence application. I hope that the Minister will be able to assure us that such persons would still have the right to make representations, notwithstanding the provisions of Clause 31.

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