Councils have always been permitted to establish CIPs in areas where it is considered that the number of licensed premises has reached saturation point.
- What is a Cumulative Impact Policy? Find out more here
Previously there was no statutory basis for providing evidence to support the establishment of a CIP. In 2017, the Policing and Crime Act gave that requirement a statutory footing in the form of the Cumulative Impact Assessment.
The evidential basis of Cumulative Impact Assessments can in some cases exceed 150 pages, and with data that has taken months to collate.
As 2020 unfolded and we found ourselves in national lockdown, then a brief summer of relaxation with the Eat Out To Help Out scheme followed by curfews, tier restrictions and now another national lockdown, it became clear to everyone involved in hospitality – whether you are an operator or authority – that every town, city and high street has been irrevocably changed by the pandemic.
But what does this mean then for Cumulative Impact?
We have seen some large authorities like Westminster continue to hold onto their CIP as they have gone through their review process and yet we have seen others remove theirs entirely.
Hereford, for example, with a new policy that came into force at the beginning of December said: “in essence it was felt that prior to the Covid pandemic there was [a need for a Cumulative Impact Policy] but as premises are now struggling it appears the need no longer exists.”
Trafford indicated in its policy review that they would be removing red tape on Cumulative Impact and introducing a new application consultation service to support Covid-19 recovery.
This follows on from Birmingham City Council removing their Cumulative Impact Policy along with Bristol, Bournemouth, Christchurch & Poole Council and Hartlepool.
Given that evidential requirements were placed on a statutory footing in 2017 – it surely must flow that as the months roll by and the licensing landscape changes forever, authorities will want to take a careful and considered review as to the role of Cumulative Impact in their boroughs.
Cumulative Impact is a significant hurdle for operators to overcome when dealing with new and variation applications – in many cases it means refusal.
As the sector emerges post lockdown changes may be needed to licences in order for businesses to recover, evolve, and so survive – and if they are in Cumulative Impact they will be faced with a legal hurdle that inevitably makes the application process more complex, longer, harder and more expensive. And so we will no doubt see more ongoing debate as to the need and relevance of Cumulative Impact post lockdown where the evidential basis must surely be called in question and require fresh scrutiny.
It is refreshing to see those authorities who have gone on the front foot and recognised and acknowledged the impact of Covid within their policy reviews, and for those who have removed CIP areas it is a welcome move for the sector.