Lobbying by industry leaders has forced a government U-turn on the granting of provisional licences in the new Licensing Bill.
A clause in the bill could have spelt chaos for expanding pub companies as it would have allowed local residents to object to new premises even after a site had been granted a provisional licence. Under the current system a provisional licence automatically transfers to a full licence when a development is completed.
The fear for the trade was that it could have heralded the end of new-build developments.
Operators could have lost millions of pounds invested in premises if a local authority finally rejected a licence application.
But in a dramatic turnaround in the House of Commons last week, former licensing minister Dr Kim Howells said: "If a developer knows what licensable activities the development will be used for, what hours it will be open and who will operate it, it may then be able to seek a premises licence."
Trade organisations have heralded the government U-turn as a victory. They are keen to ensure that the change in policy is written into the bill or the statutory guidance.
The Publican's legal expert David Clifton, of Joelson Wilson & Co, said: "We regard this as a victory. As long as it is backed up in the guidance and explanatory notes there will be a huge sigh of relief for operators."
Trade blow as new bill is pushed through (19 June 2003)
New minister for licensing is appointed (16 June 2003)