Thursday, November 23, 2006

Not Drunk Enough - license application

I had a big surprise this week.

An application has been submitted recently for an extension of opening hours, from 10pm until 4am as I recall, for an off licence on Prescot Road, Fairfield named Not Drunk Enough.

You couldn't make up a name like that, could you!

Anyway, I was phoned by the local Chair of the Fairfield Area Residents Assocation (FARA) to alert me to the fact that objections were going to be raised at that evenings residents association meeting. So I got onto the Licensing Department and they sent me the relevant form for objecting to the plans.

I took the form to the meeting and the 30 or so people there had a big debate about the application. They were united in their opposition to the proposed opening hours. So were the other agencies present.

I read out the four possible grounds for objecting -
Add to problems of crime or disorder
Harm public safety
Cause an unreasonable public nuisance
Put children at risk of harm

and residents identified particular concerns that fitted into each of these categories.

We agreed a form or words and I completed the form and signed it.

I wrote on the bottom of the form that I was submitting this on behalf of the residents association.

I handed the form in to the Licensing officers the next day.

Unfortunately they have refused to accept it because apparently Councillors are not allowed to object to licensing applications unless they are personally affected by them and live in the vicinity.

How utterly and totally ridiculous!

What was the ODPM thinking of to come up with something so stupid when they created the Licensing Act of 2003.

Who better than me to put forward the views of my residents? Me, the democratically elected community leader?

Consequently I had to get the Licensing officers to send our completed form to a number of local residents who had been at the meeting so that they could recreate it on new forms and sign it themselves.

I understand, having just done a bit of research, that lots of people are complaining about this all over the country, not just me. I think we should start a campaign to have this put right. Obviously it wont be the ODPM any more, my first job will be to find out who now has responsibility, I am wondering about the DCMS given Tessa's occasional speeches on the subject of 24 hour drinking.

Who wants to sign up to it with me?


Jim N said...

And with the Community Call for Action set to be extended across all areas of Local Givernment, it seems patently absurd that a Councillor cannot object on behalf of residents who have asked them to! Good luck.

Tim Swift said...

There are some guidelines produced by the LGA which Councils are using which have been widely criticised because they restrict the role of Councillors. However, it sounds as if Liverpool are being more restrictive than some. In Calderdale, the rule is that councillors can make representations if they are asked to do so by residents. We tend to encourage individual residents to make their own representations, and make sure that at least one of them says "and we have asked Cllr Swift to act on our behalf" or something similar. We then put in our own representations saying we have been asked, and accompanied by any petitions should they be used. But I agree that the rules need changing - councillors as local representatives should be entitled to express a view about the potential impact of licensing applications, using our judgement and knowledge of the ward and the community, just as we can on planning applications.

LouiseB31 said...

Here is my reply from DCMS, edited to remove the courtesies etc

"You recently wrote asking how the Guidance review is progressing.

We have been looking at a number of issues for this review and we will soon be launching a full public consultation exercise with our proposals in relation to these issues and also for the Guidance as a whole.

We would very much welcome any comments you may have in response to the consultation, including if there are any other areas not already covered that you wish to be. Since you have shown an interest I have included
your email address on a contact list I have that I will email when I have further news about the consultation. This will mean that you will be aware of the consultation at the earliest possible stage. I trust that is ok and will be useful for you, but please do tell me if not.

As I am sure you will understand the responsibility for administering the new licensing system has been devolved to licensing authorities so
it is for them to may decisions on applications. DCMS cannot comment or intervene in individual cases, especially because we don't know the exact details.

However, I can point out what the statutory Guidance, to which licensing authorities will have regard, says as this may be of interest.

Paragraph 5.32 of the Guidance talks about 'interested parties' and confirms that a residents' association can be an example of a 'body representing persons living in the vicinity'. Obviously the licensing authority will have to be satisfied that they are such a body before allowing a representation as an interested party.

The paragraph later goes on to say:

"Any of these individuals or groups may specifically request a
representative to make his, her or its representation on his, her or its behalf. For example, a legal representative, a friend, a Member of Parliament, a Member of the National Assembly for Wales, or a local ward councillor could all act in such a capacity."

So as long as you are clearly representing an interested party (whether an individual or a group) you make the representation on their behalf.

As I say, it is for the licensing authority to determine whether or not a representation is properly made and there may have been particular circumstances in this case. If you would like to read what the Guidance currently says please see the link below:

Finally, the issue of further clarifying ward councillors involvement in the licensing process was one raised with us during our work with the
ten scrutiny councils and this is being considered further during the
Guidance review.

I hope this is useful but don't hesitate to get back in touch if you have any further queries."

Simon Richardson
Licensing Guidance Review Team

That seems pretty straightforward to me, the council made a mistake. The Fairfield Assembly had a right to make representation and a right to ask me to do it for them. I confirmed all this in writing at the time I deposited the objection. So their rejection and insistance on the paperwork being resubmitted by the local assembly was needless pussy footing.
You heard it here first.

Chris P said...

Well done Louise! What you have found out from DCMS, and advice from Calderdale, concords with what happens here. Even the Lib Dem councillors are allowed to make licencing representations iff they have written requests. Let's hope Lib Dem Liverpool are not simply trying to stymie opposition councillors from representing their residents effectively? Or in effect making their own laziness and inaction legitimate, allowing them to shrug and say it's not up to them. It would be interesting to find out what the LDs are doing in other wards ...

Chris P