Public Health England (PHE) is hoping to introduce the objective as part of its alcohol support package (ASP) pilot scheme.
Currently there are four licensing objectives within the Licensing Act 2003 which local authorities must take into account to prevent alcohol harm - the prevention of crime and disorder, the prevention of public nuisance, public safety, and the protection of children from harm.
However, PHE has developed and piloted the ASP to explore data and processes to support a theoretical fifth licensing objective around public health.
Published on 20 June, the ASP found “the positive role” public health could play in providing effective engagement within the current licensing framework, and said the absence of such an objective was seen to be a “barrier” to public health in general.
The report said: “There is a strong desire from many within the public health and licensing community to make progress within licensing and achieve a fifth health objective.
“This report highlights ways to improve engagement within the current act and potential options for effective processes for a health objective.”
The ASP concluded that there is “still scope to improve and work to be done in getting across the benefits it can bring within the current act”.
However, the House of Lords select Committee on the Licensing Act 2003 looked at this issue in detail and concluded in April that while promotion of public health and well-being is a “necessary and desirable objective” for an alcohol strategy, it was “not appropriate” as a licensing objective.
Andy Grimsey, partner of legal specialists Poppleston Allen, explained: “It is extremely difficult to show the effect that one premises would have on the general health of the local population.
“Public health data tends to be generic in nature whereas licensing committees deal mainly with individual premises. The two concepts do not sit well together in a natural justice environment.”
Undermine current work
In reaction to the findings, ALMR chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “To link public health with licensing decisions ignores more effective approaches to reducing harmful drinking and jeopardises hospitality businesses.”
Nicholls said it was “difficult to see” how an additional objective would succeed, and that local authorities already have a “number of powers” open to them.
“Any additional licensing objective will only undermine current work, could potentially make life very hard for employers and is unlikely to have the desired benefits,” she said.