The Institute of Licensing’s work to promote consistency between licensing and planning has been recognised by the Minister of State for Crime, Policing and the Fire Service.
Kit Malthouse MP wrote to all licensing authorities about “an important issue about collaboration between licensing and planning committees.”
He said: “The Government did not agree with the Committee’s main recommendation that there should be a trial merger of licensing committees with planning committees… However, there are instances where the synergy between licensing and planning regimes could be improved. For this reason, we amended the Section 182 Guidance to clarify the issue of coordination between the decisions of licensing and planning committees and have worked with the Local Government Association to address the synergy between licensing and planning in their handbook for councillors on the Act, which was published in July.”
The Minister went on to praise the work of the Institute saying: “We are supporting the Institute of Licensing (IoL) in identifying opportunities for improving collaboration between the two regimes and gathering examples of best practice where the regimes interact effectively at a local level. The IoL surveyed stakeholders on this issue and the responses informed two workshops held this year to explore potential solutions in both the short and longer term. We are also supporting the IoL as they scope and develop training for councillors. The IoL have taken an active role in driving this work and we are grateful for their commitment to this important issue.”
The IoL have been proactively involved in the House of Lord’s review of the Licensing Act 2003. Sarah Clover, Barrister at Kings Chambers and Institute of Licensing Director / Chair of the West Midlands Region served the Select Committee as Specialist Advisor during the course of the review. The Select Committee’s report was published on 4th April 2017.
In April 2017 the IoL published its response to the House of Lords Select Committee report. In its response the IoL said whilst improvements can be made to the current licensing system, it was not supportive of an approach that will see an amalgamation of licensing and planning committees.
The IoL said: “...the IoL does not believe that the abolition of licensing committees and transfer of their functions to planning committees will serve the public interest well. Indeed, we believe it will be a retrograde step. The licensing of alcohol, in particular, is a specialist area and this is supported by the observations of the Select Committee which refers (in paragraph 379) to licensing being a 'specialised and technical area of policing, requiring a distinct and professional body of police licensing specialists.' The IoL agrees with this statement and considers it equally applicable to licensing authorities and their officers. The expertise of our members built up over many years should not be underestimated.
“The IoL acknowledges a key recommendation within the Select Committee report suggesting closer integration of the licensing and planning regimes. There are elements of such integration which make good sense such as better communication between council departments and the importance of a planning decision being viewed as a material factor for a licensing committee to take account of, and vice versa.
“There are other elements which are of concern, such as the amalgamation of committees and officers' functions. It is clear that such a major and fundamental change, if this proposal is to be taken forward by the Government, will need a more detailed consideration. But it is also clear that these issues are part of a wider debate about strategic place making and management of the night time economy. In fact, the IoL has already been in discussion with the Planning Officers' Society to discuss different aspects integration between licensing and planning regimes that would potentially see a greater role for licensing in such areas as control of use classes and permitted development.”