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This publication is available at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/alcohol-licensing-making-representations/a-practical-approach-to-making-representations-to-a-licensing-authority
This guidance forms part of the resources in Alcohol licensing: a guide for public health teams and is best read alongside the rest of the resources to give added context and guidance.
This is a guide to help all responsible authorities (RAs) to:
- identify the applications that may have a negative impact on the promotion of the licensing objectives
- apply a stepped approach to making a representation
This is not just about refusing licenses, but also how conditions put on the licence can help applicants to promote the licensing objectives and ensure their premises are well run.
Some of the points below may be more relevant to specific RAs, but you should consider all the points in this document.
RAs should apply this within the context of their local area. Each RA will have different priorities, and understanding these priorities provides a useful framework for determining whether to make relevant representations.
For more information on the role of RAs see chapter 9 (determining applications) of the latest section 182 of the Licensing Act 2003 guidance.
1. Awareness of the tests involved
The licensing regime has a clear focus on promoting the 4 statutory licensing objectives, which the Licensing Act outlines as:
- the prevention of crime and disorder
- public safety
- the prevention of public nuisance
- the protection of children from harm
Each new application, or variation of an existing licence or club premises certificate, must assess the likely effects that granting the application will have on the promotion of the licensing objectives. This is a ‘prospective consideration’[footnote 1], which aims to prevent adverse consequences from operating the premises. You should make the consideration based on the likely impact on the licensing objectives. This test should also apply if you’re reviewing an existing licence or club premises certificate.
Not every application will need a response from every RA. Instead, RAs should identify the types of applications that could cause problems and undermine the promotion of the licensing objectives and apply this information accordingly. In each case, you should consider the relevance to and likely effects on the licensing objectives of the particular premises in the particular location, being used in the particular way. You must consider each application on its own merit.
2. Effective representations and relevant evidence
All RAs can be involved in the application, and they will probably approach it from their specific point of view. For example, the police are likely to focus on crime and disorder. But all RAs can object on the grounds of any of the 4 licensing objectives, and public health teams should consider this when reviewing this information.
The following guide is a practical approach to evidence and representations to help all parties participate effectively in the process.
Where known, set out the proposed or actual operation of the premises. The ‘operation’ of a premises is wider than the licensable activities. For example, licensable activities operating in a restaurant differ to those operating from a small off-licence or late-night club.
The size and capacity of the premises will also have an impact on the surrounding environment.
Consider the effects and impact of this on the licensing objectives by asking:
- what are they going to be doing?
- is there a refusals book?
- what is the premises’ capacity and how will it be managed?
- what is the history of the premises’ operation before the application was made?
- what is the likely customer base and audience profile?
Consider whether the premises have a responsible approach towards alcohol sales, for example:
- do they have adequate staff training?
- do they have a robust age verification policy in place, such as Challenge 21?
- are they planning irresponsible price promotions?
- do they have suitable entry policies if it’s an on-licensed premises?
All the questions should try to find out how, and in what way, the premises will operate.
The nature and scope of the operation are crucial to assessing:
- the likely effects
- the actual effects
- the relevance to the licensing objectives
Remember that the operation can change during each day, week, month and year. If you do not know the operation or it’s unclear, say so and reserve your position so you can comment once the operation and use of the premises is clear to you. You must do this within the consultation period.
The people owning or running the premises are ultimately responsible for adhering to the licensing conditions and promoting licensing objectives.
Do you know the people who make the decisions that matter and control the premises and the staff? This could include:
- the designated premises supervisor
- other staff
- independent contractors (like Security Industry Authority staff)
Unless the application is for a new licence, the police are the only authority able to object to a change of designated premises supervisor (DPS), and only if they believe the change would undermine the prevention of crime objective.
In most cases, it’s not possible to know all the various people and staff who will be responsible for the day-to-day running of the premises, as the only named requirements are the premises’ licence holder and the DPS.
Are the various people and staff involved able to meet their commitments? If you have confidence in them, say so. If not, say so and explain why not. If you do not know, say so and reserve your position, so you can comment once the control, management, and staff of the premises are clear to you.
Also, consider how the applicant could demonstrate they can meet their commitments, and what sort of measures or conditions, like training, they could put in place to help them meet their commitments.
2.3 Physical characteristics of the premises
The physical characteristics of the premises can affect how they stick to the licensing conditions and the promotion of the licensing objectives.
If you have the opportunity, go and visit the premises, if only from the outside. Describe what you see. For example, a nightclub in a single-glazed listed building might be noisy and disturb neighbouring homes or flats. Premises with an outdoor space for eating, drinking or smoking will have an impact on things such as noise or litter. Visit and say what you see.
While visiting the premises, look at the local area and note what else is in the area. What other premises, facilities or features are near the premises? Briefly describe the surrounding area. Provide a plan if it helps. For example:
- what are the neighbouring premises?
- are there any premises, locations or uses that concern you?
- what are the transport facilities, open spaces, places where children might congregate, other entertainment facilities or known crime location hot spots?
- what are the operating times of nearby premises relative to the premises involved in the application?
Focus on what the issue is, and why it’s an issue. If you identify concerns about the application, can you recommend appropriate changes to the premises that would help improve or reduce issues to the promotion of the licensing objectives?
2.4 Policies and local initiatives
It is crucial that you reference any relevant policy considerations, either from section 182 guidance or the local statement of licensing policy. You can also consider including relevant case law.
Is there a cumulative impact policy in place in that area? If yes, questions to consider include:
- what impact will the premises have and is it a similar application to what’s already operating in the area?
- could this impact on the licensing objectives?
- does it offer an alternative to what already exists and help to diversify the area?
Are you aware of any local initiatives that are happening in the area? For example, policing and licensing initiatives (such as Reducing the strength campaign and Pubwatch), voluntary initiatives (such as Street Pastors) or better regulation schemes (such as Business Improvement Districts, Best Bar None or Purple Flag).
2.5 Local concerns
What are the local concerns? Data might help show these concerns, which could include:
- crime statistics
- local authority complaints data (like licensing or noise nuisance complaints)
- enforcement action taken by the RA, including test purchase results
- concerns from the local anti-social behaviour teams, or community drug and alcohol teams
- data on ambulance call-outs
- alcohol and late-night-related hospital admissions
- depravation data, particularly those linked to licensable activities such as child and young person alcohol use, street drinkers or proliferation of off-sales in areas of deprivation
- data collected by primary research such as concerns or views of the residents and business communities
Remember to only consider data and concerns that are local and relevant to the premises. You will rarely find child protection or alcohol consumption data useful when considering a restaurant, but you might find the data valuable for a convenience store near to a school, youth centre or sports field.
Data and concerns should be relevant to the promotion of the licensing objectives and preferably recent. You should not reference the data and concerns if the premises were closed at the time, or the premises were used as a landmark location to report incidents that occurred nearby. However, if it is a new application it may be appropriate to reference the data and concerns in an area close by if they are happening around the times the premises wish to operate.
2.6 Operating schedule
You should consider the proposed or existing operating schedule and management style of the premises.
Applicants must be clear in their operating schedules about the activities and times at which events would take place at the premises.
An applicant should consider what could have a negative effect on the licensing objectives and address these in the operating schedule. Chapter 8 of the section 182 guidance outlines what an applicant should consider in their operating schedule.
Licensed premises often operate in difficult circumstances, and the licensing regime seeks to promote good and best practice to premises operators and RAs. The aim is not to prevent negative effects, but to regulate and respond to these in the best way to minimise them.
If you can balance the various factors and reach a conclusion about the likely effects or their relevance to the licensing objectives, do not be afraid to say so.
If you have concerns, can you address these with the operating schedule or further practical conditions that are in the direct capability of the premises? If further conditions are appropriate, you should say so.
You could suggest other appropriate conditions, that follow the guidelines in chapter 10 of the section 182 guidance, and your licensing authority may have model conditions that you can change to fit the circumstances of the premises you are considering.
2.7 A balancing exercise
A decision to license a premises is a balancing exercise between equally valid but conflicting interests.
Following the above steps will help you identify the relevant factors to consider. As an RA, you are an expert in your field. What is your assessment of the balance? Make this assessment, let the licensing sub-committee know and do not be afraid to have an opinion. You should also be open to amending your opinion following discussion at the committee.
If there is not enough information for you to form an opinion, highlight your concerns and reserve your opinion until you have answers. The premises operator should mostly provide these answers.
3. Partnership and engagement
Depending on the nature of the application and local circumstances, it might be appropriate to talk to the applicant directly. A premises operator can also contact the RAs to further explain their position. If you need further clarification, ask for this information in your representation.
During the consultation phase, you can discuss any concerns with other RAs. They may have information that could help.
4. Monitoring and review
Once the committee has granted an application, you should work with other RAs to monitor the impact of the licence. If problems develop, RAs should work together under an agreed enforcement protocol or policy. This can lead, among other measures, to an application for a licence review or a prosecution, and equally, keep evidence of good and successful operations to help support further licence applications.
See R (on the application of East Lindsey District Council v Abu Hanif (t/a Zara’s Restaurant & Takeaway)  EWHC 1265 (Admin), para . ↩