Licensing

Camden licensing proposals would 'damage' local pubs

By Oli Gross contact

- Last updated on GMT

Concern: BBPA fears move by Camden Council
Concern: BBPA fears move by Camden Council

Related tags: Public health, Business improvement district

Camden Council has proposed changes to its licensing policy in ways that would 'damage local pub businesses', the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) has claimed.

The comments come in a submission to Camden Council’s consultation on its draft licensing policy, which closed last week.

Camden’s 250 venues employ 6,000 people, generating £700m for the local economy in the central London borough each year.

Public health 

Camden intends to make public health its own consideration​ in licensing decisions, which the BBPA said the Licensing Act 2003 was not intended for, and contradicts previous Government decisions.

Camden has also introduced a late-night levy​, which enforces a new tax on local businesses, despite other councils turning away from this approach in recent months.

With only 30% of funds raised going to the local council, Milton Keynes recently abandoned plans to introduce a levy, and Cheltenham recently repealed its scheme, moving towards a partnership with local businesses through a Business Improvement District, where every business in a specific area pays a levy and not just those operating at night. 

The proposal also could restrict the sale of higher strength beers, and introduce cumulative impact policy evidence.

Too specific

Brigid Simmonds, BBPA chief executive, said: “I hope Camden listens to these concerns because pubs are vital to the local economy. Camden’s draft policy is far too specific a tool to be effective in promoting wider public health objectives, which should be done through targeted campaigns and raising public awareness. 

“Powers under the licensing regime are rightly focused on dealing with issues in and around specific premises, such as public nuisance, crime and public safety. A late-night levy is not a partnership, but a tax.

“I hope Camden will consider a more partnership-based approach, through schemes such as Business Improvement Districts, Pubwatch and Best Bar None, which encourage businesses, the council and police to work together to share best practice and promote a safer drinking environment.”

Preventing harm

Camden’s licensing draft includes a section on protecting and improving public health when considering new and existing licences.

It states: “Although ‘protecting and improving public health’ is not currently a licensing objective, alcohol-related harm is a particular cause for concern in Camden. We will, therefore, always consider health-related harms where they are relevant to the promotion of the licensing objectives.

“Accordingly, when making representations, Public Health England will demonstrate a link between health concerns and the licensing objectives and may provide information such as ambulance call-outs and admissions to hospital specifically caused by alcohol.”

The council said it expected applicants “to consider the health impacts of their proposed activities in relation to the licensing objectives”.

This would include restricting special offers such as cheap shots; happy hours; buy one, get one free; aligning price with ABV; increasing seating to reduce intensive drinking; reducing the volume of music; and offering food in late-night venues.

Related topics: Licensing law

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