The Licensing Act 2003 ("the Act") enables thorough scrutiny of applications both by experts and by the local residents and businesses. "Responsible Authorities" such as the police, fire authorities, trading standards, health and safety and environmental health authorities, and others, will be notified of every application for a new premises licence, or variation of existing licence. They will have the opportunity to make representations to the licensing authority about the effect on the promotion of the licensing objectives of the application.
The Act also enables residents and businesses in the vicinity of the premises, known as 'interested parties' to make relevant representations about applications for a new licence or variation of an existing licence. This gives the local community a say in licensing decisions.
For a representation to be relevant it must be one that is about the likely effect of the application on the promotion of one or more of the four licensing objectives. Also, if the representation is made by an interested party it will not be relevant if the licensing authority considers it to be vexatious or frivolous.
In addition a representation has to be based on more than what an interested party might think or fear may happen. There needs to be real evidence to back up the representation or clear evidence of actual problems relating to the licensing objectives in the Representation. Based on the decision in Daniel Thwaites Plc v Wirral Borough Magistrates Court & Saughall Massie Conservation Society v Wirral Borough Council (2008) a sub committee determining an opposed application will judge each case on its merits; but must make its decision on firm evidence or reasonable expectations based on specific facts and not on speculation.
In addition, responsible authorities and interested parties have the right to apply for a review by the licensing authority of an existing licence, on grounds relating to the promotion of the licensing objectives. Such a review can result in the modification of the licence, its suspension, or ultimately, revocation.
Also, the Act makes provision for rights of appeal against a licensing authority's decision to the magistrates' court (see Schedule 5 to the Act).
Similar provisions apply in regards to applications for, or to vary, a club premises certificate and in respect of applications for a provisional statement.
Putting forward your views on applications for, or to vary, a premises licence
When applying for, or seeking to vary, a premises licence, an applicant must give notice of their application to each responsible authority. The applicant will also be obliged to advertise his/her application. Any residents or business operating/living in the vicinity of the premises which are the subject of the application will be able to make representations, positive or negative to the licensing authority about the application, if they wish to do so. All interested parties and responsible authorities will have a period in which they can make representations to the licensing authority about the application. If the licensing authority considers the representations are relevant it must hold a hearing to consider those representations (unless all agree that this is unnecessary). The licensing authority will then have choices as to how it proceeds depending upon what is necessary for the promotion of the licensing objectives. It may decide
- To grant or vary the licence in the same terms as applied for;
- To refuse to grant or vary the licence;
- To grant or vary the licence, but to modify the conditions;
- To exclude from the scope of the licence one or more licensable activity.
If no relevant representations are made the licence or variation must be granted in the terms applied for (subject to the mandatory conditions).
A similar approach is taken in respect of club premises certificates and provisional statements.
Requesting a review of a premises licence
An interested party or responsible authority can, at any time, apply to the licensing authority for a review of a premises licence on a ground relating to one or more of the licensing objectives. The person or body requesting the review must notify the holder of the premises licence and each responsible authority of their request. The licensing authority must advertise the application for the review and invite representations from responsible authorities and interested parties.
The licensing authority can reject any ground for the review if it considers it to be frivolous, vexatious or a repetition. If not rejected, the licensing authority must hold a hearing to consider the application.