Hearings can be complex and councillors on the licensing committee unpredictable. If for whatever reason you do not have legal advice then hopefully the following will help:
Make sure you read the agenda/notice of hearing because this will give some important information, which includes:
- The make-up of the committee (this is a list of which councillors are siting)
- A summary of the issues, which includes possible proposed ‘model’ conditions
- Importantly, which parts of the licensing authority’s policy are relevant to the application?
- The procedure: do you have a time limit for your presentation, will it be a discussion and will you be allowed to ‘sum up’ at the end?
If you have evidence to provide then make sure that you submit it prior to the hearing.
Be careful because although the regulations are not specific, some councils have their own internal regulations, which could, for example, require evidence to be submitted five working days prior to the hearing so if you do not do this, and the other parties involved do not consent, you will not be able to introduce this written information at the hearing.
Many councillors sit on a number of committees and, hopefully, will have read the agenda and will not necessarily want overlong emotional speeches. Stick to the facts.
Tactically, it is not a good idea to demean or belittle those who have made representations particularly if they are local residents, no matter how irrelevant or ludicrous the points which have been made.
Often less is more, and it is better to let the more passionate local residents speak without interruption because sometimes he or she will lose the sympathy of the committee and you will be given credit for not constantly interrupting; you can always comment on residents’ submissions at a later stage in the hearing.
If the chair of the committee or the lawyer does not, then try to steer the hearing towards a consideration of the facts at issue. For example, the variation rather than allowing a ‘review’ of all of the issues, real or imagined, relating to the premises.
Always try to keep calm even if fanciful allegations are directed at you and simply rebuff these in the strongest possible terms, but without being overly aggressive.
Remember, if you can, to appear reasonable as an operator and tactically, if you can concede on a matter, which commercially will not hurt you — for example, on display of notices, conditions or similar — this may ease the passage of your application through.