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Licensing reform - Proposals for change to the applications process

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A draft Order is currently before Parliament which proposes to alter the process for applications to vary premises licences and club certificates (the Legislative Reform (Minor Variations to Premises Licences and Club Certificates) Order 2009).

The existing procedure under section 34 of the Licensing Act 2003 imposes an administrative and cost burden on licence and certificate holders as any variation to a premises licence or club certificate, no matter how minor, requires the full application procedure to be followed. Currently, an application for variation must be made to the local licensing authority and the applicant needs to advertise the application in the local press. The applicant must also notify relevant public authorities including the local police and fire service of the application and local interested parties are able to make representations to the licensing authority.

The legislative reform is intended to apply to situations where minor variations are required to premises licences and club certificates. Examples given by the Goverment in the explanatory memorandum for the draft Order include the internal relocation of a bar or the necessary relocation of safety equipment on a premises. The new procedure will still require an application to be made to a local licensing authority but at a flat fee of £73. There will be no requirement to advertise or notify relevant public authorities and local interested parties will have no ability to make representations on the proposed variations.

The Government confirms that it believes that the new proposed process is beneficial as it will save costs for licence and certificate holders although concerns were raised during the consultation process about the removal of the right for interested parties to make representations. The intention of the draft Order is that any applications for variation which would have implications for public safety, crime and disorder, public nuisance or the protection of children from harm would not be allowed to use the new minor variations application process.

The draft Order does not yet apply but licence and club certificate holders may be looking forward to a reduction in cost and administrative process where minor variations to their licences and certificates are necessary. This should have some positive impact at a time when many small businesses ran by licence and club certificate holders are struggling in the current economic climate. 

Full details of the draft Order and the accompanying explanatory note are available on the Office of Public Sector Information website.

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