16th May 2017
Since its enactment 11 years ago, the Licensing Act 2003 has undergone numerous amendments, including nine Acts of Parliament, secondary legislation and changes to guidance.
The committee issued a scathing criticism of the raft of changes that have been made to the Licensing Act, resulting in what they called an “unfortunate piece of legislation”. The committee was particularly critical of the set up of a separate local licensing committee when, it said, the current planning system was sufficiently adequate to manage the licensing process.
Committee chairman, Baroness McIntosh of Pickering, commented: “It was a mistake and a missed opportunity to set up new licensing committees when the planning system was already available to regulate the use of land for many different purposes.
“The planning system is well suited to dealing with licensing applications and appeals, and the interests of residents are always taken into account. The committee was shocked by some of the evidence it received on hearings before licensing committees. Their decisions have been described as ‘something of a lottery’, ‘lacking formality’, and ‘indifferent’, with some ‘scandalous misuses of the powers of elected local councillors’.”
The report follows a consultation with a number of sources which have either been directly or indirectly affected by the Licensing Act, including the late night food and drinks sector, the police and the Home Office.
Recommendations contained in the report included:
It remains to be seen whether the Government will take forward the committee’s recommendations which many sections of the planning industry agree could change the face of the licensing regime.