Licensing and Planning, where regulatory regimes cross swords

The terms of premises licences and planning permissions for bars, clubs and restaurants do not always mirror each other. As a result, we often receive queries from clients regarding conflicts between their licence and planning permissions. These queries are most regularly in relation to discrepancies between the trading hours in their licence and planning permission. So why the inconsistency between licensing and planning in the first place?

Nuisance, Licensing and Planning

Restrictions on trading hours are often in place to prevent public nuisance from occurring in or around licensed premises.

It appears that disputes regarding public nuisance, particularly arising from complaints raised by residential neighbours, are on the increase. Responsible authorities (e.g. Police, Environmental Health, Planning, Children’s Services) can object to licensing applications. Similarly, local residents are able to also object.

Unfortunately, the decisions taken and outcomes reached by committees in respect of planning and licensing applications do not always correlate. Whilst licensing and planning are separate regimes, there appears to be no uniformity across local authorities in England and Wales. The approach taken by councils dealing with such matters varies widely. 

Home Office Guidance

The Home Office has attempted to assist in avoiding the discrepancies. The most recent guidance under s182 Licensing Act 2003 states,

“where businesses [indicate], when applying for a licence under the 2003 Act, that they have also applied for planning permission or they intend to do so, licensing committee officers should consider discussion with their planning counterparts prior to the determination with the aim of agreeing mutually acceptable operating hours and scheme design”.

The risk here is that it is quite possible that one committee may take into account the irrelevant or inappropriate considerations from the other.  Applicants and legal representatives will not be privy to the discussions that take place, which understandably leads to suggestions of there being a lack of transparency in some cases. 

Where this leaves you as an operator

It is important as an operator to understand how you are able to trade pursuant to your permissions in respect of both a premises licence and planning.  We advise that you take legal advice at the earliest stage in this respect in order to ensure that you do not fall foul of either regime.

If you would like to discuss a planning or licensing matter, please do not hesitate to contact Ed Smith in our Licensing Department on 0113 244 9931.

licensing planning