Licensing Act anniversary: 'disproportionate deference' made to residents

By Emily Sutherland

- Last updated on GMT

Licensing Act anniversary: 'disproportionate deference' made to residents

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A leading licensing expert has expressed his concerns about the impact of the Licensing Act, arguing that licensing officers were failing to use the ‘common sense the act requires’ and pointing to a rise in bureaucratic standard conditions.

Speaking at a City of London debate on the impact of the Licensing Act ten years​ on from its introduction, barrister Simon Walsh said: “Standard conditions seem to be creeping back in. I’ve seen the cause of a small pub where one of the conditions on the license was that there should be at all times be lavatory paper in the ladies lavatory.

"That was a licensing condition, so if did run out the poor chap behind the bar serving the drinks is committing a serious criminal offence.”

He added that many councillors showed a ‘disproportionate deference’ to the views of local residents.

“It is often the case that if you want a licence to stay open until 12am, you apply for a license to stay open until 1am, because you know councillors come what may will always lop an hour off to the application to appease their residents.”

However, fellow barrister and legal expert in licensing Philip Kolvin countered that the Licensing Act had been good for businesses, had cut down on bureaucracy and made the process more democratic, ‘ensuring the right businesses open in the right places with the right conditions and hours.’

He said: “We have infinitely more diverse market than we did ten years ago which has created many jobs, particularly for young people who so desperately need them. As retail recedes from our high streets, we must make sure the nighttime economy is there to pick up the slack. The City of London was dead at night just 15 years ago-now it is thrumming.”

The British Beer and Pub Association heavily criticised a drive to create a standard pool of conditions for licensed premises earlier this year, arguing pubs needed less regulation not more. 

Related topics Licensing law

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