The purpose of this report is to ask the Committee to agree to the publication of Local Licensing Guidance.
The Substance Misuse Programme Manager presented a report on Local Licensing Guidance, the aim of which was to improve the quality of applications for premises licences for off license premises in areas where there was evidence of significant alcohol harm as the quality of applications was generally considered to be poor. Operating schedules, where the applicant stated how they intended to promote the four licensing objectives, often contained a list of conditions with no supporting evidence of the alcohol related issues and harms in the area. Without this detail it was difficult to make an informed decision on the suitability of the application or whether the applicant had any knowledge of the area and how the four licensing objectives may best be promoted.
The Statutory Guidance issued under section 182 Licensing Act 2003 gave the level of detail expected in an operating schedule. Appendix 1 to the committee report detailed the relevant part of the statutory guidance and the report gave examples of the type of information that it was recommended an application contained within the operating schedule.
The Council’s Strategic Licensing Group had looked at ways of supporting applicants in order to make a positive impact on alcohol harms. Evidence from agencies and partners had been collated and 3 areas were identified as being most suitable for the production of local, non statutory licensing guidance, these being Gillingham High Street/Canterbury Street, Luton and Chatham High Street. Following further research, guidance for each area was written and commented on by other responsible authorities. Overall the Strategic Licensing Group intentions were to make a positive impact on alcohol related harms in the identified areas. The Local Licensing Guidance would assist with these aims by:
• Assisting and supporting individuals and businesses in making an application for a premises licence, as they would be better informed of the best ways of promoting the licensing objectives, which could be included within their application.
• With ready access to evidence of alcohol harms in an area, improved, targeted conditions could be suggested by the applicant, which would better promote the four licensing objectives.
• By improving the quality of the applications and the evidence used to support the promotion of the licensing objectives, there would be fewer representations from responsible authorities and other parties, resulting in fewer licensing hearings.
The areas identified for local licensing guidance did not follow ward boundaries and were based on a combination of all the collated evidence of alcohol harms and the locations of licensed premises. The three pieces of guidance were aimed at off license applications due to the number of these premises in each of the areas and the corresponding evidence.
Members were advised that, further to additional comments received from Legal Services, the proposed options for the Committee set out in the report had been revised. The Committee was therefore asked that, if it was minded to agree to the guidance in principle, officers be instructed to do further work on the guidance documents and bring them back to a future meeting of the Committee. The revised guidance would incorporate the comments of the Committee, which were sought.
The Committee discussed the proposal and were strongly of the view that any guidance should be available to any applicant for a premises licence for an off licence in Medway, rather than only being available to applicants in three specific areas. Whilst it was recognised that the areas had been devised based on the available evidence, Members considered that any additional guidance should be of a general nature so that the quality of applications in all areas could be improved. It was also noted that this guidance would only assist new applicants and was not directed at existing premises, for example in Rochester High Street.
In conclusion, Members were not opposed to the principle of introducing further guidance, to supplement the guidance already available, to assist those applying for a premises licence for an off licence on the completion of the application form and the operating schedule. However, such guidance should be general guidance available to applicants in all areas of Medway. It was recognised that there were currently significant issues in particular areas, but Members were not convinced that the proposed guidance would specifically address those issues.
The Committee instructed officers to reconsider the proposed guidance in the light of Members’ comments and present revised guidance proposals to a future meeting of the Committee.