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Massage and special treatments licences

Licence summary

Under the London Local Authorities Act 1991 a licence is required when you provide or offer special treatments commercially from premises situated in the London Borough of Richmond unless you can claim an exemption. Special treatments include, but are not limited to:

  • Tattooing, including micropigmentation and microblading
  • Piercing including ear piercing
  • Treatments such as acupuncture, red vein treatment, wart or skin tag removal by electrolysis, semi permanent makeup
  • Massage treatments including aromatherapy and reflexology
  • Electrical treatments such as hair removal by electrolysis and galvanic/faradic treatments
  • Nail treatments including manicure and pedicure
  • Light treatments such as sunbeds, lasers, intense pulse light treatments
  • Sauna, steam, spa–pools or other baths

If your treatment is not listed it may still be licensable. More detailed information on licensable special treatments can be found in our A - Z of treatments (pdf, 488 KB) guidance (although this does not cover all treatments).


The law allows certain exemptions from the need for a licence. These include:

  • Any premises which are not used for gain or reward
  • Any premises where the special treatment is carried out by or under the supervision of:
    i) A medical practitioner registered by the General Medical Council, or
    ii) Any bona fide member of a body of health practitioners approved by the Council,
    iii) In the case of acupuncture, a dentist registered under the Dentists Act 1984,
    iv) In the case of osteopathy, a person registered as a fully registered osteopath or a conditionally registered osteopath under the Osteopaths Act 1993,
    v) In the case of chiropractic, a person registered as a fully registered chiropractor or a conditionally registered chiropractor under the Chiropractors Act 1994,
  • Any premises used by a person who is registered under the Health Professions Order 2001 solely for the practice of the profession in respect of which he is so registered and of the conduct by him of any business ancillary to such practice and no other purpose
  • Any public hospital
  • Any nursing home

The legislation does not list bodies of health practitioners. Each body needs to apply to the borough where they want their members to be exempted.

In order to make this process easier, most London Boroughs agree a list of exempted bodies(pdf, 35KB) via the London Special Treatment Group. Richmond Council has adopted this list. If your body does not appear on the list, or you are offering treatments not covered by the body, then you will need to be licensed.

About a premises licence

A premises licence is issued in respect of specific premises and specifies the categories of treatments that can be carried out on the premises.

A premise licence is:

  • Valid for one year, unless revoked
  • An application must be made annually to renew the licence before the date of expiry of the existing licence, otherwise a new application will need to be submitted
  • A licence may be varied
  • A licence may be transferred to a new licence holder but not to a new premises

You do not need a licence if you only carry out treatments in a client's own home provided the treatments are given only to the client.


A fee is payable for the grant, renewal, variation and transfer of a licence. View fees for 2024-25.

The fee is based on the level of risk from the treatments and is calculated on a cost recovery basis. The fee payable is based on the highest risk treatment that is to be given, e.g. even if only one treatment out of many is in the highest risk group then the fee will fall within the highest band. The number of treatment groups to be licensed makes no difference to the licence fee.

Licensable treatments are grouped into eight categories and these will be specified on your licence when issued. The groups and associated fee band are:

Treatment group Treatments within the group Fee band
Group 1 Tattooing, cosmetic piercing (except ear piercing - lobe only and nose piercing - nostril only), laser/intense pulse light treatments, micropigmentation, microblading High risk
Group 2 Other treatments involving the breaking of skin i.e. acupuncture, red vein treatment, electrolysis- wart/skin tag removal Medium risk
Group 3 Massage treatments (including aromatherapy, reflexology) Medium risk
Group 4 Electrical and light treatments (including hair removal by electrolysis, galvanic/faradic treatments, UV tanning) Medium risk
Group 5

Nail treatments (acrylic) - nail extensions

Medium risk
Group 6 Nail treatments, i.e. manicure and pedicure (excluding acrylic treatments) Medium risk
Group 7

Sauna, steam, spa - pools

Medium risk
Group 8

Ear piercing (lobe only), nose piercing (nostril only)

Low risk

Eligibility criteria

All special treatment licences are granted, renewed, transferred or varied, subject to our standard conditions (pdf, 89 KB). The regulations allow for the removal or variation of any standard conditions adopted by us. A request to remove or vary a standard condition can form part of an application for a new licence or via a variation application.

A licence may also be granted subject to particular conditions that apply only to that licence and these will be set out on the licence itself.

We may refuse to grant, renew or transfer a licence on any of the following grounds:

  • The premises are not structurally suitable for the purpose
  • There is a likelihood of nuisance being caused in the area
  • The person concerned or intended to be concerned in the conduct or management of the premises used for special treatment could be reasonably regarded as not being fit and proper persons to hold such a licence
  • The persons giving the special treatment are not suitably qualified
  • The premises have been or are being improperly conducted
  • The premises are not provided with satisfactory means of lighting, sanitation and ventilation
  • The means of heating the premises are not safe
  • Proper precautions against fire on the premises are not being taken
  • They are not satisfied as to the safety of equipment used in the special treatment or as to the manner in which the treatment is to be given
  • They are not satisfied as to the safety of the special treatment to be given
  • Satisfactory means of escape in case of fire and suitable means for fighting fire are not provided on the premises
  • The applicant has, within the period of five years immediately preceding the application to the borough council, been convicted of an offence under this Part of the Act
  • The applicant has failed to comply with the requirements of application or has failed to pay the specified fee

Therapist registration

Until 1 April 2021, all therapists who provided licensed treatments in licensed special treatment establishments in the borough needed to be registered with us.

The therapist registration scheme ended on the 1 April 2021. It is now the responsibility of licence holders to ensure that all persons providing special treatments are suitably qualified and/or trained to carry out those treatments. Adequate records of the qualifications and training must be kept on site. We have produced guidance on acceptable qualifications (pdf, 98 KB) and training for therapists. This is not an exhaustive list but is produced for your assistance.

Apply for a licence

Before applying for a new licence you must ensure you have:

  1. The necessary planning permission
  2. Your landlords’ permission if carrying out your business from home

To apply for a licence you must download and complete the appropriate application form and send it to us with the correct fee. For a new application or an application to vary the layout of the premises you must provide us with a plan of the premises. If you intend to provide laser/intense light (IPL) treatments, you are requested to submit a copy of your Local Rules and Treatment Protocol (please advise us if you cannot provide these documents at this stage). Your application will not be processed until we receive all the required information and the correct fee.

We have adopted Regulations Governing Applications (pdf, 92 KB) for the grant, renewal, transfer and variation of Special Treatment Licences and their determination, and you are urged to read these before making an application.


Once we receive your application and accompanying documents, there is a consultation period of 28 days in which we pass your application to our Planning department, the Police and the Fire Brigade. These bodies have the opportunity to raise concerns with or object to your application. No licensable treatments may be provided during the consultation period. 

In addition, if you are applying for a new licence you must put up a notice of application (pdf, 77 KB) at the premises on the day you submit your application to us. The notice must be displayed for at least 14 days. At our discretion, a notice may also be required for variations of licence, e.g., extension of premises or on renewal.


Before a new licence is issued, a Licensing Officer will visit your premises and ensure that you are able to comply with the relevant conditions that would be applied to the licence. You will also have to show documentation to prove that the electrical installation, portable appliance and gas installations at the premises are safe for use and that you have the required public liability insurance. Inspections may be carried out following a renewal or variation application.

Application evaluation process

If no objections to the application are received the application will be granted at the end of the 28 day consultation period. If any problems are identified during the premises inspection, the licence will only be granted once these problems have been addressed and you are able to comply fully with our standard conditions for special treatment premises.

Will tacit consent apply?

No. Your licence will only be issued to you when all the necessary inspections/checks have been carried out and the premises meets the required standards.

Failed application redress

  • The Police, Fire Authority, planning authority and any other person have the right to raise objections to an application for a licence
  • We must consider any objections made within the period allowed for the receipt of objections
  • Where we receives an objection, it does not automatically mean that it will refuse to grant the licence. On receipt of an objection, we will notify you of the reason for the objection and ask for your comments. Where possible, we will attempt to resolve any objections by a form of conciliation. If this is not possible, then in most cases the application will be determined by a meeting of the Licensing Committee where both the applicant and objectors can present their case

Licence holder redress

Any licence holder who objects to any of the licensing conditions attached to a licence may appeal to a Magistrates Court.

Consumer complaint

We would always advise in the first instance that in the event of a complaint, you make contact with the trader. If you are not satisfied with their response please contact the licensing team on the details below.

Contact the Licensing Team

If you have any questions or comments please contact the Licensing Team at

Or write to:

Regulatory Services Partnership
Merton Civic Centre
London Road

Updated: 26 April 2024

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