Legal advice: Licensing regulations complicate matters

Related tags Licensing act License

The regulations attached to the Licensing Act have complicated matters rather than simplified them.By Deborah McCallum of thePublican.com's team of...

The regulations attached to the Licensing Act have complicated matters rather than simplified them.

By Deborah McCallum of thePublican.com's team of legal experts from London solicitors Joelson Wilson.

The recently published draft regulations of the Licensing Act 2003 give me cause for concern. While most of the regulations are unremarkable, a number of areas are needlessly complicated. Bearing in mind that one of the aims of the new Act was to make licensing less complicated and bureaucratic, it is interesting that the draft application forms for conversion of an existing licence into a premises licence run to some eight pages, with an additional 11 pages to complete should you wish to apply for a variation at the same time.

For conversion applications, we have known for some time that the following documents would have to be submitted with the application form:

  • the original or a certified copy of the existing licences
  • form of consent from the existing licensees (where the premises licence application is being made by someone other than the holder of the existing licence)
  • form of consent from the proposed designated premises supervisor (DPS)
  • a plan of the premises in the prescribed form
  • the fee.

Conditions

The conversion process should, therefore, be the most straightforward of applications. However, hidden away on the form is a request for applicants to describe how the conditions attached to their existing licences will promote each of the four objectives:

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

No doubt many licensees will struggle to decide in which box to place a condition to provide food until at least one hour before closing. This adds an unnecessary complication to what should be a relatively straightforward process.

Plans

Another subject of much speculation is the prescribed form of plan that will be required. With less than four months to go now until the first appointed day, February 7, 2005, we finally have the proposals for this much sought-after information. The draft regulations state plans must be drawn on a scale of 1:100cms and show:

  • boundaries of the building and any external and internal walls
  • location of exits and escape routes
  • areas in which licensable activities are to take place
  • locations for the consumption of alcohol
  • any fixed structures which might impede movement
  • location and type of fire safety and other safety equipment
  • location and height of any stage or raised areas
  • location of any kitchens.

You should start checking your existing plans to see whether they comply with these requirements. If they don't, you need to make arrangements to have plans drawn up to the required specifications. Licensing authorities have the discretion to accept plans not drawn to the required scale, so it may be worth checking with your local authority whether your existing plans are acceptable.

Electronic service

Another worrying aspect relates to the electronic service of applications and notices. The regulations state that although applications, notices or representations must be made in writing, it will be possible to submit them electronically.

Electronic applications or notices will only be accepted where the text is in a legible form, the person to whom the application or notice is given has agreed that it may be given electronically, and, after sending the application or notice by electronic means, hard copies are then sent on.

This all sounds very progressive and high tech, but there is a sting in the tail. The draft regulations also state that where applications or notices are required to be accompanied by a fee, a plan or any other documents, the electronic application or notice will not have effect until the fees and/or other documentation are received.

Yet again we have a simplified process being made unduly complicated. This could foreseeably lead to problems for licensees as set out in the box.

Related topics Legislation

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