I've posted before on the so called 24 hour city and on the issue of binge drinking. While I believe that the changes in the licensing laws contained in the Licensing Act 2003 are needed in their own right, it seems possible that the changes may lead to problems in our smaller towns without some creative thinking.
The main changes, which will affect all premises that sell or serve alcohol are;
* Transfer of responsibility for alcohol licensing to the local Council
* Introduction of a "Premises Licence"
* Introduction of a "Personal Licence"
* Relaxation of licensing hours permitting 24-hour sale of alcohol
* Development of a Council Licensing Policy
I'm only going to deal with the new responsibilities of local councils who now have to prepare a Licensing Policy. This must incorporate four 'licensing objectives':
* Prevention of crime and disorder
* Prevention of public nuisance
* Public safety
* Prevention of children from harm
The Council will have to grant a licence unless it conflicts with the Licensing Policy. It can impose conditions that promote the licensing objectives such as requiring door supervisors in a night club to promote the crime prevention objective, or noise control measures to prevent public nuisance.
The theory is that relaxation of the traditional hours of sale will prevent the accumulation of drinkers at closing time. My fear however is that the problem is not the hours but the drinkers. I'm attending a meeting tonight on some problems in the town centre of petty vandalism and drunken behaviour. It is critical to the enjoyment and growth of our town centres that we should be able to walk around them without fear of violence - or vomit. How far I wonder are local councils going to be willing to go in tackling these issues?
This Statement of Policy does not seek to undermine the right of any individual to apply under the terms of the Act for a variety of permissions and to have such an application considered on its individual merits. It does not seek to override the right of any person to make representations on an application or seek a review of a Licence or Certificate where provision has been made for them to do so in the Act.
I don't know what guidance has been issued by central government of course. It wouldn't be the first time that central government has introduced legislation and then been so frightened by the way it is taken up that they cripple it by 'advice' and guidance'