Here are some practical tips for commenting on alcohol licence applications (making a representation).
These tips might also be helpful if you are requesting a review of a licence. A representation can be an email or a letter to the licensing authority. There are various requirements which need to be complied with (including a strict time limit). The licensing authority is required by law to send a copy of your representation to the applicant or their representative. Representations cannot usually be kept anonymous, but there are circumstances where this may be appropriate for instance when you are in genuine fear of violence or where an elected member has applied for a review on your behalf. You must remember however that if your witness statements / evidence include your personal information this will be shared with the licensing sub-committee.
This policy sets out what standards the licensing authority expects from applicants. It can be helpful to reference specific sections of the policy within your representation.
Part of the licensing authority’s job is to give advice about how and when to make a representation along with what happens at licensing sub-committee hearings.
Representations must be in writing either via letter or email to the licensing authority.
If you have evidence to support the points you are making, for example incident numbers or records of phone calls to the police or environmental health, you should give details in your representation. Evidence holds more weight than speculation. Include photos if they would give weight to the representation.
The aim of making a representation is to describe how your life / community will be affected and why you are against the application. You must give reasons and not just speculation for your objection and you must base your representation on at least one of the four licensing objectives. Your representation must not be “frivolous” or “vexatious”. For example, an application is frivolous if the application lacks seriousness or is particularly trivial or vexatious if it relates to disputes between rival businesses. You will be trying to demonstrate that a grant of the application (at least in the terms requested) is not ‘appropriate’ for the promotion of the licensing objectives:
A Prevention of Public Nuisance. This is the most commonly used reason for making a representation, with most residents complaining that there is already a noise nuisance from a premises while it is open, and that if the premises were allowed to stay open any longer, this would go on until an unacceptably late time. Noise at and after closing time is also a public nuisance problem, as is litter, for example.
B Prevention of Crime and Disorder (e.g. fighting, drug problems, disorder etc). You should state what the problems are and whether the police were involved (if you know). You should describe how often problems occur and whether these problems are ongoing.
C Protection of Children from harm. This is rarely used but if you believe that, for example, under- age drinkers are being served there then you should set out why children are at risk of being harmed.
D Public Safety. If you believe that a pub is over- crowded, for example, or if you believe that there is any other risk to public safety, you should describe the problem in your letter
Issues such as the following should be reported to the Environmental Health Team within the relevant Council. If you are already taking measures such as keeping windows closed, wearing earplugs, turning your television up, then you should outline them in your representation letter. If litter, urination and bottles being left around make your neighbourhood look unpleasant, and makes it less pleasant to live there, you should state this. If you are kept awake by noise from a pub, for example, you should describe the noise you can hear, how loud it is, how often you are disturbed and what the effect is on you, for example disturbed sleep, lack of peace and quiet, or perhaps you have to keep your windows shut in summer and so on. If you or anyone else has reported the issue, you should give details of when. If you have complained to the management or staff at the premises, you should also give details.
Try and focus your comments on how the application impacts or could impact you and your community. Try to avoid making general statements in case they are considered to be irrelevant.
The notice of the application will give the deadline for submitting a representation to the licensing authority. It is important you submit your representation by this date as late representations will not be taken into account. If you do miss the deadline include the reasons why and depending on the reason the licensing authority may still consider the representation.
Include your address and where you live in relation to the premises (e.g. I live directly opposite the pub).
If you are submitting comments on behalf of an organisation or community group it is better for any representation to be signed by an individual but should make clear that the comments represent the views of the organisation or group. The individual could be an elected member, community council leader, citizens advice, chair of local neighbourhood watch, faith leader etc.
Section 18 of the application form gives applicants the chance to detail how they will uphold the licencing objectives (for example using a challenge 25 policy (ask to see ID of anyone that looks under age 25) and having CCTV). Is there anything else you feel that the applicant could consider?
Within your representation you can make suggestions for changes you would like the applicant to make in order to address your concerns. This gives the applicant time to consider your suggestions prior to a licensing sub-committee hearing.
Things to Watch Out For
The licensing authority cannot consider information that does not relate to one of the four licensing objectives (for example traffic problems or planning).
When a licence variation application is made the licensing authority does not have the ability to remove the licence, only to agree or refuse the proposed variation. Your representation must relate to the details within the variation application.
It is better for individuals to write their own representations so that they are not too similar. If you represent regularly ensure that you tailor each representation to the application.
The onus is on the person making the representation to say why the licence application should be refused, rather than on applicants to provide evidence for why their application should be granted, however applicants do need to demonstrate how they will promote the licensing objectives within their application.
If no representations are received against an application by the licensing authority then the application is granted every time.
The Applicant's Solicitors Have Contacted Me. What Do I Do?
The Council is required by law to send a copy of your representation to the Applicant or the Applicant’s representatives. Sometimes they may contact you to discuss your concerns.
Making a representation means that you become a party to the application, which brings with it certain rights and responsibilities. For example, you have the right to attend any subsequent hearing and address the Sub-Committee which decides on the application.
Sometimes the Applicant’s representatives may suggest a meeting in order to discuss your concerns and examine ways in which they can be resolved. If you are not able or willing to meet, it is still a good idea to respond to the invitation saying so.
Sometimes the Applicant’s representatives may propose amending the application to e.g. reduce the hours sought, removing or reducing ‘regulated entertainment’, or to make the licence subject to conditions which may address your concerns.
The Licensing Act 2003 envisages a partnership approach whereby there is scope for a useful dialogue between parties prior to any hearing to see if any matters can be resolved. This ensures that the hearing is as a streamlined as possible and focuses only on matters still in dispute.
The Application Was Granted, And I Am Not Happy With The Decision. Can I Appeal?
There is a right of appeal for any party to the application. The appeal is by way of complaint to the magistrates’ court within 21 days of the decision to grant the licence. The Respondents to an appeal by a resident will be the Council and the Applicant.
It is important to think very carefully about an appeal as there are potential costs implications. It is important to take legal advice before embarking on an appeal.