It used to be the case that outside of major cities, local licensing policies tended towards straightforward statements of licencing law. However, that is now the exception, rather than the rule. Taking account of the policy is now an essential part of any new licence application or variation.

What has changed?

Licensing policies need to be updated every five years. Currently, a large number of authorities are reviewing their policies and in doing so are taking a more proactive approach to what they are demanding of applicants.

So, what is now in the policies?

Policies can contain some or all of the following:

• cumulative impact policies

• hours policies

• zoning, including fixed or staggered closing times, policies

• requirements for pre-application consultation

• requirements on conditions

• approach expected of responsible authorities

• reference to other relevant documents such as enforcement protocols

If you fail to take these requirements into account, some authorities will suggest that this will have a negative impact on getting your application granted.

What do I have to do?

Before making an application, you or your adviser needs to consider the local policy, decide which parts of it are relevant and make your application accordingly. If you then decide not to act as set out in the policy, which is perfectly legitimate in some circumstances, you will need to give your reasons for doing so to avoid officers thinking you have ignored their policy altogether.

What if I don’t read or follow the policy?

Policy is not law and each application must be considered on its merits. However, if you choose not to go with the policy requirements, or simply ignore the policy, you can expect that your application is more likely to receive representations and therefore go to a hearing.

There are good reasons to make an application against policy (for instance in cumulative impact zones), but no good reason not to read the policy to find out what expectations the council have for applicants.

What if the policy says my application will not be granted?

No policy should say an application will not be granted. That would be against the law. They may suggest that applications that fall outside of policy, for instance where you want to apply for later hours, are less likely to succeed, but they cannot stop you applying or avoid considering the merits of your application if it goes to a hearing.

Is pre-application consultation worthwhile?

Nowadays, unless there is very good reason not to, we would suggest that pre-application consultation is the norm. Getting in front of licensing officers early and engaging with them is likely to draw the sting from representations and therefore it is more likely that your application will be granted.

Where will I find the policy?

We will be able to assist, but a search of the council website licensing pages should take you directly to the policy.

Piers Warne

Piers advises on all areas of alcohol licensing- in particular relating to the provision of alcohol and regulated entertainment in pubs, clubs and restaurants. Piers also advises on issues relating to private members clubs, as well as on reviews or challenges to premises licences and appeals. He regularly appears at licensing committees around the country and also writes for national journals on matters affecting licensed premises. He is an associate member of the Emergency Planning College and lectures on licensing matters.