The Committee considered a report on the Business and Planning Act 2020 which received royal assent on the 22nd July 2020 and was enacted with immediate effect. The Act aims to support business recovery, help businesses adjust to new ways of working and create new jobs. It introduced a number of urgent measures to help businesses succeed over the coming months, and to remove short term obstacles that could get in their way. Almost all measures were temporary, with some limited exceptions. There were two key areas within the Act relevant to Licensing Services; firstly the provisions in the Act temporarily modify the Licensing Act 2003 to provide an automatic extension to the terms of most premises licences which only permit the sale of alcohol for consumption on the premises, to allow the sale of alcohol for consumption off the premises. Secondly the Act introduces a new ‘fast-track’ pavement licence process to facilitate the provision of outdoor dining and drinking by businesses. The full report on pages 19 to 27 of the agenda pack details the requirements of these temporary changes including businesses excluded from the changes.
The Committee was advised that there was no additional fee for the automatic extension to the terms of most premises licences to allow off the premises consumption however there is a fee involved with pavement licensing. Within the council’s constitution the setting of this fee is delegated to the Licensing Committee, however in order to facilitate immediate implementation in July when the Act received royal assent, the Cabinet Member for Regulatory Services in consultation with the Chairman of the Licensing Committee agreed a provisional fee of £100 for applications. The actual cost of processing an application is closer to the region of £300 so each application does incur costs to the council.
During discussion the following key points were raised:
- In relation to the timespan of granting pavement licenses up until the temporary end date of September 2021, LGA guidance encouraged councils to take a pragmatic approach to supporting businesses and granting licenses for the full period, this would also be cost effective for the council and avoid having to process more than one application during that period for any particular premises. Further, it was clarified that the online process for applying for the license does not request the applicant to specify an end date and rather the council was handling applications on the basis of them running to September 2021.
- In total 21 applications had been received at the time of the committee meeting, 16 were granted, 3 were initially rejected but following amendments made 1 had been granted, and 2 had been refused. The costs for the council involved the requirement of input from the highways department which needed to assess each application as to the suitability of granting a pavement licence.
- At the time of the meeting there had been no feedback or complaints from businesses on the level of the fee and it was noted that previous costs for a tables and chairs licence would have been considerably higher.
- Through consultation between the Licensing service, Highways department and Thames Valley Police standard conditions had been introduced as appended to the report on pages 29 to 31 of the reports pack. Where it was felt additional controls were required there was the option to add further conditions.
It was proposed by N Southworth, seconded by J Lowen-Cooperand resolved
That the temporary changes to the Licensing Act 2003 introduced by the Business & Planning Act 2020 be noted and that the level of fee of £100 currently charged for each pavement licence and the duration of pavement licences issued under the Business & Planning Act 2020 until 30 September 2021 be confirmed.