LICENSING and PLANNING – the future relationship The Licensing and Entertainment Bill now being debated, with its Explanatory Notes and Guidance under Section 177, makes it clear that Planning is seen as separate from Licensing. DCMS ministers quote the planning system as a way in which local councils will be able to ‘plan’ for the 24-hour economy. The DCMS do not appear to understand how planning works at present and how limited its effect will be on premises subject to Liquor and Entertainment licensing. Many existing pubs, bars and restaurants (A3) have no planning conditions at all, having been in existence prior to Planning. Many others were in business before local authorities realised the need to impose conditions such as opening hours and delivery times to protect those living in mixed-use areas. Some authorities were late to realise that closing hours and other effects of A3 could not be left to licensing magistrates. This has allowed much change in their trading with, for example, premises that started as tea shops becoming licensed bars without further planning consideration. Substantial numbers of existing A3 premises will therefore be able to apply for Liquor and Entertainment Licences to open until 1, 2, or 3am or even 24 hours without making a planning application. This will include the great majority of pubs, including individual ‘locals’. Premises with hours restrictions will quickly apply for their removal citing the right to match their competitor’s trading. If they have to go to planning appeal the Minister may well feel that planning should not stand in the way of Government (DCMS) policy. The new Premises Licences would allow a cocktail of different activities to take place. For example large pubs and bars could be run effectively as nightclubs from say 11pm until whenever they wish to close. They would presumably claim that this use was ancillary and therefore did not come within Class D2. In any case the 2001 DTLR consultation for the Reform of Use Class Orders suggested that D2 Night Clubs should be in the same Use Class as pubs, bars and restaurants. If, despite widespread opposition by the Civic Trust and others, this change is implemented any existing A3 premises could trade as a Night Club. It follows that planning will, at best, only be able to influence the distribution and form of new licensed premises. This will have some value in newly developing mixed residential and commercial areas, but would have only a very minimal and slow effect on the vast majority of the country. In most mixed-use areas it is the change in character, intensity and duration of the food, drink and entertainment activity that will impact on the lives of urban residents. The Night Time Economy is based on the youth market, basically MVVD bars and clubs. These will create more alcohol-fuelled noise and disorder on the streets of the neighbourhood. Areas at present quiet by say midnight will still be ‘vibrant’ at later and more damaging hours. DCMS maintain that longer drinking hours will improve the urban environment by civilising British drinking culture. In pursuit of this prescription for alcohol and entertainment provision they are to prevent local councils from having licensing policies that reflect the varied needs of different parts of their communities. This ‘one size fits all’ theory for licensing would treat the local shopping street of a city suburb in the same way as the city centre itself, and seeks to sideline the planning system. If this view prevails democratically created Local Plans and Special Planning Guidance that can help local communities to live with the ‘Evening Economy’ will be progressively unable to prevent damage to the sustainability of residential life due to the introduction of the ‘Night Time Economy’. Continues with Case Studies: 1. Single Pub 2. A mixed-use area. Roger Mortimer , Redland and Cotham Amenities Society, Bristol December 15th 2002 LICENSING LAW CHANGES Examples of what could result .. Case Study 1. A large Victorian pub in the centre of a high density area of housing, mainly two storey houses with some flats. Residents include owner-occupiers and tenants, including families with young children, retired people and students. There are Housing Society flats for 40 elderly persons. The pub has been extended and a large terrace added facing a small public green. The pub is mainly accessed on foot, bicycle and motor bike. Trading operation has varied over last 25 years under different managements, but weekday daytime trade has always been limited. Recently considerable focus on football and the youth market, particularly students and very busy on some evenings. There have been some complaints from neighbours about noise, litter and vandalism but generally the pub has been accepted as part of this inner city suburb. The licence is for normal permitted hours only – 11pm closing, 10.30pm Sundays. This has ensured that the area has become reasonably quiet by midnight. A new manager recently proposed to apply for Extended Hours. This was firmly opposed by local residents and two local community associations. There had just been complaints to Police and local council and the police made it clear that any application would be resisted. The manager then said ‘you won’t be able to stop me next year’. Unless amended, the Licensing and Entertainment Bill will make it virtually impossible for the new Licensing Committee to refuse a Premises Licence that allows extended opening hours. The noise and other anti- social behaviour arising from customers leaving at midnight, or 1 or 2am are bound to cause serious damage to residents. Case Study 2. A mixed-use area about 1 mile from the city centre. It is principally residential, consisting largely of Victorian houses. Residents include families with young children, retired people, and students. Tenure is a mixture of owner occupation and renting, including social housing.Nearby uses include a primary school and home for the elderly infirm. There is a main and a subsidiary shopping street within the area, with a supermarket, local and specialist shops. From the late 80’s many shops have been converted to A3 Uses - restaurants, pubs and bars. These include some large ‘theme bars’. There are now some 30 licensed premises – restaurants, pubs and bars. Licensed capacity grew 120% between 1993 and 1997. The combined customer capacity of licensed premises is about 4,000. Concern over the impact of this on the life of residents lead to Special Planning Guidance being adopted in 1997 that strictly limited further growth and encouraged clubs to locate in the city centre itself. Planning refusals based on this Guidance were upheld at appeal. Police and residents objections to licenses for new premises, more vertical drinking space and extended hours have also prevailed. Many existing premises will seek to open later. Some have already said they will. Residents in the fall out area of this concentration of alcohol based business will then suffer the street noise, vandalism and other problems into the small hours. This will be aggravated by changes to provide more vertical drinking space, and therefore customer capacity, and introduction of late night entertainment to retain customers for longer. Only 10 out of 30 licensed premises have Planning Conditions affecting hours or type of activity, eg restaurant or bar. Only Licensing can prevent a rapid worsening of living conditions for local citizens. The Licensing Bill and DCMS Guidance make it clear that the new local Licensing Committees will not be allowed to have licensing strategies and make decisions that limit further deterioration.
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