Licensing Act has led to massive growth in off-licences, report claims

By Emily Sutherland

- Last updated on GMT

Licensing Act has led to massive growth in off-licences, report claims

Related tags: Drinking culture

The 2003 Licensing Act has caused problems for police forces and led to a boom in the number of off-licenses, according to a new report from the Institute of Alcohol Studies (IAS).

Around twice as many applications for off-licences than on-licences have been granted over the last 10 years according to the research and late night openings have forced crime into the early hours, causing ‘significant’ issues for police. 

Nationally or locally set opening hours for off-licenses should be re-introduced to crack down on street drinking and binge drinking, the report argued, which would in turn reduce the impact of pre and post-loading on pubs, bars and nightclubs. 

The IAS also found that many councils are not using the act to its ‘full potential’ because they are concerned about expensive legal costs involved with appeals and rely on non-expert legal advice. 


“Licensing authorities do need to make better decisions,” The Licensing Act: its uses and abuses 10 years on​ report said.

“Many are understandably worried about the prospect of expensive legal costs if a decision is appealed, and clear examples were given in the course of this project where consciously ‘safe’ decisions were made in order to avoid this prospect, despite concerns about an application. Indeed, the money and legal power available to certain sectors of the licensed trade are key reasons as to why local authorities have failed to properly assert their powers under the Act.”

The IAS interviewed 36 people from the world of licensing for the research, including police, licensing officers, licensing lawyers and trade associations. 

The introduction of the Licensing Act ten years ago caused many to fears a spike in alcohol consumption and health related issues but a 2015 report from the Institute of Economic Affairs found alcohol consumption fell and there was no rise in alcohol-related A & E admissions. 

Related topics: Licensing law

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