Licence win gives hope for high impact zones
A leading licensing expert says people applying for licences for shops in cumulative impact zones shouldn’t bow to police opposition without a fight.
Wakefield Council’s licensing committee took the rare step of granting a licence to a new Nisa store in the city centre despite it falling in such a zone.
The committee ruled that, in opposing the application, West Yorkshire Police had presented insufficient evidence that the store would cause antisocial problems in the area.
Gill Sherratt, of the consultancy Licensing Matters which fought the case for the applicant Shives Patel, said the case shows operators should not take opposition to their plans lying down.
Sherratt added:“Historically, [cumulative impact zones] have been viewed by authorities, the council and applicants as a brick wall to new alcohol applications.
"The presumption is against a new licence being granted but it is a rebuttable presumption so applications need more work and more attention to detail.
“The policies themselves are often a very broad brush approach and include all licensed premises, without any real focus on the ones that are actually causing the problem. This was exactly the case here.”
Unusually, Patel received support from the council’s own services director for economic growth and housing. The committee accepted his submission that the application would have a “positive impact” on the area and “improve the visual amenity”.
In its judgement the committee said that it had received “little or no evidence” from the police that granting the application would have a negative impact on the area. It added that the existence of a cumulative impact policy “does not mean the licensing authority may apply a blanket ban to all applications within a cumulative impact area”.
While considering the case the committee took into account pledges in the application around the responsible control of alcohol including staff training, Challenge 25, till prompts and CCTV.
The licence was granted with a condition that cans of beer and cider will not be sold in units of fewer than four unless there was a minimum spend of £10, to discourage street drinking.
Sherratt said the case showed that licences could be won in cumulative impact areas if applications were handled well.
“The main message here is that a cumulative impact policy of this nature – also referred to as a saturation zone – is not a complete block to the grant of a correctly made application.
“Often the police just rely on the existence of the policy and that is not enough. The tide is turning and this is an excellent example of that.”