Cumulative Impact Policies – Licensing Update

Cumulative Impact Policies (CIPs) are local policies which introduce a presumption against new (or full variations to existing) licences to sell alcohol from bars, shops, pubs or clubs in a designated area, also referred to as saturation zones. They can be adopted where there is evidence that the number or concentration of premises give rise to a harmful impact on the promotion of the licensing objectives and where a licensing authority has consulted local people and businesses.

As a reminder, the licensing objectives, set out in the Licensing Act 2003 are as follows:-

  • the prevention of crime and disorder,
  • public safety,
  • prevention of public nuisance, and
  • the protection of children from harm

For the purpose of this article we are focusing on new licence applications, but it is worth remembering that the same issues apply where there is an application to vary an existing licence, for example, to increase the hours in which licensable activities can take place. In considering whether your prospective bar, pub or restaurant may be up against the additional challenge of a CIP, It is helpful to look at the individual Statement of Licensing Policy in the area. Each Local Authority must produce this document, and review it at least once every five years. 

There is not a CIP in every town or city, but there are many, and it is certainly the case that new licences are far more difficult to obtain when the premises is situated in an existing saturation zone, unless it can be shown that the application is exceptional. Generally, as the presumption is that there will be no new licences and so no impact on the licensing objectives, the main exception comes when an existing licence has been surrendered, and it can be demonstrated that the new licence is effectively replacing the old. 

All is not lost, and it is certainly not the case that there are no new licenses being granted. We have assisted many new clients in obtaining new licences, even within a saturation zone. When preparing an application for a new premises licence within such an area, it is important to focus on the reasons as to why it is “exceptional”.

Being a good operator and having a brilliant track record of running successful establishments is often not enough, as has clearly been demonstrated by three recent licensing hearing outcomes in Nottingham where three excellent operators were turned down by the Licensing Committee on cumulative impact grounds. One of those operations, the Alchemist, has appealed the refusal, and the result of that appeal (to the Magistrates Court) will certainly be of interest to many local operators.  The Licensing Authority in those cases made it very clear that they expected excellence in operators as a matter of course, and that such excellence would not be considered exceptional.

Examples of proposals which may genuinely be exceptional are concepts which are completely new and fresh, and are seen as adding to a city centre in a positive way. In addition, very small venues are likely to be considered more favourably, as are venues providing full seating and food, or venues with shorter opening hours. 

One of the main issues that many Licensing Authorities are concerned about is the culture of vertical drinking - something that the government has been citing for more than a decade as one of the main contributors to binge drinking and the subsequent problems that arise. Back in 2003 the government identified that introducing a more sedentary style of drinking, similar to that found in continental cafés, despite the more unreliable weather in our country, could persuade young people to drink more reservedly. This more measured approach, which could be accompanied by food, even in snack form, slows down drinking and might stop them ending up horizontal on the street.

The good news is that every application has to be, and indeed is, dealt with on a case by case basis.  If we are able to agree conditions with the relevant authorities, and there are no objections to the premises application, then it must be granted without a hearing. Crucial therefore in any application process is excellent and collaborative communication with the local community and the police, together with planning authorities and community protection. In addition, working with our clients from the outset, in order to guide them through the process helps create a thorough understanding of the concept our clients are proposing. We can help make their vision a reality, and of course, we thoroughly enjoy doing it. 

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