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Licensing Act 2003: A step by step guide for residents of City of Westminster

The Guidance to Licensing Act 2003 (“the Act”) issued by the Government under s182 of the Act states that one of the key aims and purposes of the Act is ‘encouraging greater community involvement in licensing decisions and giving local residents the opportunity to have their say regarding licensing decisions that may affect them.’

The Licensing Advice Project (LAP) is funded by Westminster City Council and can provide case-specific advice, information and representation to residents of Westminster at any or all of the stages of the licensing decision-making process.

Below is a handy quick reference guide for residents of Westminster to the rights and responsibilities of residents under the Licensing Act 2003 regime.

Please note that this guide is necessarily general in nature and reflects law and practice as at March 2018. Please also note that some of the information may be specific to practice/procedure in Westminster and may not be applicable in other licensing authority areas.

Please feel free to contact us if you have any queries at any stage of the process.

1. I have become aware of a licensing application.

  • You have the right, if you wish, to make a representation . It is a good idea to find out more information first. If you have received a letter from the City Council, it should contain brief details of the application. You may also have seen a notice at the premises. Representations are usually objections, but they can be in support of the application too.
  • It may be that this information is enough for you to make a decision on whether to make a representation or not. If you do not wish to make a representation, you need do nothing more. If you need to find out more about an application, see below.

2. How can I find out more about an application?

  • There are a number of ways of finding out more about an application.
  • The City Council has a Public Licensing Register containing details of applications and licences. It can be accessed online .
  • You can sign up for notifications and to track the progress of an individual application.
  • If you are not able to access the internet, you can telephone the Council on 020 7641 6500, or contact us and we can do it for you.

There is a wide variety of applications which are made. No two applications are exactly the same, and it is important to find out precisely what an application seeks before deciding whether to respond to it.

3. I think the application will have an effect on me. What should I do?

  • Look closely at the application form. It can also be useful to look on the Register for previous applications and the current licence (if any).
  • The application form will often propose additional conditions to which any licence would be subject should the application be granted.
  • It can be important to view the licence plans submitted with the application. The plans are not available online but an appointment can be made to view the plans at the Council’s offices in Victoria between 9am and 4pm, Monday to Friday.

4. How do I make my views known?

  • By making a ‘relevant representation’. Our website provides general advice on this process.
  • In order to be ‘relevant’, a representation must address the likely impact of the application, if granted, on the promotion of the licensing objectives .
  • There are various requirements which need to be complied with (including a strict time limit). The Council is required by law to send a copy of your representation to the Applicant or their representative, although current WCC practice is not to include contact details.
  • Representations cannot usually be made anonymously.
  • All representations submitted and not withdrawn, will form part of the Licensing Sub-Committee report which is a public document.

Certain parts of the Council’s Statement of Licensing Policy and the s.182 Guidance to the Act may assist in assuring that your representation is as effective as possible.

5. I have my representation. Where do I send it?

Representations must be received by the Council within 28 days beginning on the day after a valid application is received by the Council.

A representation can be made in the following ways:

  • via Public Access on the Council’s website, where you can make comments on an application by following the instructions and prompts
  • Alternatively, via email to licence-reps@westminster.gov.uk
  • Representations can also be made by post but remember that representations must be received within the 28 day period for objections to be received.

Additionally, all comments submitted and not withdrawn, will form part of the Licensing Sub-Committee report which is a public document.

We would advise submitting an objection either via Public Access or email .

6. After making a representation you may be contacted by the Council notifying you of amendments to the application.

  • The Council is required by law to send a copy of your representation to the Applicant or the Applicant’s representatives.
  • Sometimes the Council may contact you to notify you of amendments to the application or to tell you that the Applicant’s representatives have suggested a meeting in order to discuss your concerns and examine if they might be resolved. If you are not able or willing to meet, it is still a good idea to respond to the invitation saying so.

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.

7. I have received a letter from the Council notifying me of a hearing date.

  • Anyone who has made a relevant representation (and not subsequently withdrawn it) should be notified of the hearing date at least 10 working days before the hearing.
  • Hearings are normally on a Thursday.
  • You will be asked to confirm whether you wish to attend the hearing, whether you will be represented, whether you wish anyone else to speak on your and whether you consider a hearing to be necessary.
  • You should respond at least 5 working days before the hearing.
  • If you want to submit any further evidence in support of your representation, it is good practice do it by the latest on the Wednesday in the week before the hearing to ensure that it will be included in the Report to Sub-Committee (see below).

8. I have told the Council that I want to attend the hearing, and they have sent me a bundle of papers.

  • This will be the Report to Licensing Sub-Committee, which contains the relevant documents which will be before the Sub-Committee at the hearing.
  • The Sub-Committee may take into account further evidence produced up until the day before the hearing (or on the day of the hearing with the consent of the parties) but in the interests of fairness any further evidence should be submitted as soon as possible, to allow the parties (and the Sub-Committee) sufficient time to consider it prior to the hearing. The Council may not take into account evidence which is received later than midday on the Monday of the week of the hearing.
  • Equally, if your concerns have been addressed and you are happy to withdraw your representation, it is important to tell the Council. Otherwise a hearing may have to go ahead anyway.

9. I have read the Report and would like to attend the hearing. Do I need to be represented?

  • Anyone who has made a relevant representation is entitled to attend and/or be represented at the hearing, and address the Sub-Committee.
  • We are very experienced at representing residents at Sub-Committee hearings. Please contact us if this is of interest.
  • At a hearing you can expand on your representation, but should not introduce entirely new matters.
  • Each party should be permitted an equal amount of time to speak. However, where there are numerous residents who will each be making the same points, it is unlikely to advance your case if each individual speaks in turn and repeats the same things. In these circumstances, it is advisable that one or two people are appointed as spokespersons.

10. What format do the hearings take?

  • Hearings are designed to be accessible and fair to residents and those who are not legally qualified, and should take the format of a discussion led by the Sub-Committee. It is not a court of law, although there are obviously procedural requirements.
  • Matters quite often change quickly during the course of a hearing, particularly with reference to the hours sought or conditions proposed.
  • We have a guide to the hearings process, please click here

11. How will I know what has been decided?

  • The decision of the Sub-Committee is usually announced immediately following the hearing.
  • You will subsequently be sent the formal written decision, with reasons.

12. 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. The Respondents to an appeal by a resident/s will be the Council and the Applicant.
  • It is important to think very carefully about an appeal as there are potential costs implications. There is also considerable case law in the higher courts as to the approach to be taken by the Magistrates’ Court when considering appeals from Council decisions.
  • It is therefore very important to take legal advice before embarking on an appeal.

In addition, there is a remedy for residents where an application is granted and the feared problems do in fact arise. Residents have the right to apply to the Council to review a premises licence . We can advise you on this if necessary.

13. The application was turned down, but I have heard that the Applicant has appealed. Do I need to do anything?

  • The appeal is against the Council, not against the objectors. The Council is very experienced at handling these appeals and will contact you in due course regarding arrangements for the Court hearing.
  • In general, it is a good idea to keep a note of any problems you experience with the operation of the premises in the meantime.

14. I would like to keep up to date with what is happening in my area with licence applications.

The Council produces a weekly bulletin called ‘Licensing News’, which details all applications pending in the consultation period i.e. those applications for which representations can still be accepted. You can ask to be put on the mailing list by emailing licensing@westminster.gov.uk

Additionally, Public Access on the Council’s website enables you to receive email alerts on properties or streets you are interested in. You will need to register. There is a useful document on the Council’s website to guide you through the process, or you can email the Council if you are having difficulties. You can also contact us for help if you wish.

Once you have registered, you can also track an application on which you have made a representation, and you will be updated when the status of the application changes.

Please feel free to contact us if you have any queries about these type of premises.

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