Another busy year for our Licensing Advice Project
Another busy year for our Licensing Advice Project which has been supporting residents in their issues with licensing, gambling and “sexual entertainment venue” applications since 2005.
Specialist licensing solicitor Richard Brown explains: “There were 138 new enquiries opened. We represented residents at 63 hearings, made written submissions in advance of 3 hearings which we were unable to attend, and advised on 18 case where representations made by interested parties were withdrawn following agreement.”
Richard describes how the service operates: “Where clients request representation at hearings we usually offer a face-to-face meeting to go through the procedure and explain what to expect. We do a site visit before most hearings. We suggest pragmatic approaches to applications and to proposals by applicants’ representatives, including further submissions to the council. We liaise with applicants’ representatives and attend meetings organised with residents. This can lead to withdrawal of representations without the need for a hearing to take place. We do our best to encourage and empower residents to speak at hearings and to help them focus on relevant matters. Following the hearing, we report the outcome and any conditions that were imposed, and advise the resident on next steps.”
Range and level of work
The Project provides advice and representation at licence hearings under relevant legislation on applications for new, variation and review of premises licences and on noise/anti-social behaviour and other public nuisance issues.
Richard Brown explains: “No two cases are the same. For advice on applications for licences, some clients simply request information on an application or issue and do not require further assistance. More usually, clients require more detailed advice on an application and how best to frame their objections.
“This year, we represented residents (ranging from a single individual to multiple residents, amenity societies and residents’ associations) at 63 licensing hearings.
“One particularly interesting case involved supporting a residents’ society objecting to a new premises for a garden square, one of a number protected by the London Squares Preservation Act 1931, which stipulates the statutory purposes of such squares.
“The society had taken the view that this precluded the council from granting a licence. We arranged a meeting with the society, attended by 3 members. Each had made their own individual representation. The residents had a number of ideas about how to best approach the application, and we advised on the feasibility of these. We gave advice on the relevant provisions of the 1931 Act, and associated case law.
“We drafted a submission on behalf of the society, covering the relevant legal, policy and factual matters in order that the council’s Licensing Sub-Committee had a clear idea of the residents’ position prior to the hearing.
“We met again prior to the hearing and discussed changes that had been made to the application, and how best to approach the hearing in terms of who should speak and what matters they should cover.
“The hearing was adjourned to a different date. When the hearing took place it was attended by a large number of residents, some of whom had made representations and some of whom wished to attend the hearing as members of the public.
“We represented the residents’ society and a number of individual residents. As is not unusual, the application was amended both immediately before the hearing (in discussions with the applicant’s solicitor) and further during the hearing itself. When this happens it really emphasises the value of the Project representing residents at hearings, as they may not be able to appreciate the significance of such changes made with no time given for them to consider the ramifications.
“We presented the case for the residents, focusing on the relevant points, and introduced a number of them to speak. We outlined to the Sub-Committee what measures the residents thought would be appropriate if the Sub-Committee were minded to grant a licence.
“The Sub-Committee did grant a licence, but on fairly limited and stringent terms, particularly as to the number of events permitted per annum.
“The residents were pleased with the outcome. A number of residents who had not had previous contact with the Project thanked us for our efforts at the hearing.
“Other residents have also expressed their thanks for our advice and support with their issues:
- ‘I would like to express our sincere thanks to [the Project] for all your work for us. We are getting many messages from many residents to express their gratitude.’’- Belgravia resident.
- ‘Thanks you so much for all of your help yesterday. It was a fascinating (although very lengthy!) process that I would not have been confident with if it had not been for [the Project]’. – Soho resident.
- ‘Yet again [the Project] delivered and made me feel informed and confident.’- Westminster Amenity Societies
- ‘Thank you for all your help with this, it has made a big difference to our quality of life. Very much appreciated. Hopefully your action will have resolved the situation.’ – Church Street ward resident
- ‘Thank you so much for ALL your support and advice. We could never have managed without you attending/representing the residents yesterday as well as guiding us through the process and legislation. The leaseholders are most grateful for your time and expertise.’ – Fitzrovia resident
- That is fantastic news! I’ve cc’d our local Councillor who has been taking an interest in our progress.’ – Fitzrovia resident
- ‘Without [the Project] it would be nigh-on impossible for ‘ordinary’ folk like us to object to such applications.’ – Soho resident
To contact Richard, please visit our dedicated website for our Licensing Advice Project