In order to operate a licensed premises, you will first need to obtain a number of approvals. These include planning permission and a premises licence.
It is a common misconception in the licensed trade that the obtaining of planning permission will lead to an applicant automatically obtaining a premises licence and vice versa. This is not the case. Planning and licensing operate pursuant to wholly separate legislative frameworks. It is important to ensure, prior to committing financially to a premises or project, that you will be able to trade in line with both licensing and planning approvals as you intend.
Planning permission is required for certain building operations; these include new buildings and alterations which materially affect the external appearance of a building. However, it is also required for material changes of use.
Quite regularly shops (planning Class A1) and other types of commercial premises are converted into licensed premises; be they A3 (restaurants and cafes) or A4 (drinking establishments). If you wish to change the use of a premises that does not fall within the permitted development use class then you will first need to make an application for planning permission. This application, if successful, will not necessarily allow you to immediately trade a licensed premises from that property.
Even where a premises has planning permission, there may still be conditions that will affect the way it is used. A good example of this is the operating hours of the premises. If there are any constraints or conditions placed on the property, you will need to apply to vary or remove these should you wish to operate differently. This could be done as part of the same application as a change of use.
As set out above, the licensing and planning application processes are entirely distinct. Simply because planning permission is obtained, does not mean that a premises licence will automatically be awarded. You will need to go through a separate application process in order to obtain one.
Licensing authorities typically consider that it is ideal to obtain all planning permissions, consents and certificates before any licensing applications are made. This is with the aim of smoothing out the licensing process. If the planning permission position is clear before the licensing authority has to deal with the licensing application, there will then be little doubt that the premises can be lawfully used for the purposes covered by the proposed premises licence. It will also be less likely that the local planning authority will make representations against a premises licensing application as their permission will already be in place.
On some occasions an applicant will submit licensing and planning applications at the same time. In these cases, licensing officers will usually consider whether there should be discussions with their planning counterparts with the aim of agreeing mutually acceptable opening hours for the premises.
I am often asked why the outcome of licensing and planning applications won’t necessarily be the same.
The reason for this is that the two regimes need to be properly separated in order to avoid duplication and inefficiency. They are two separate systems with their own rules, criteria, policies and guidance. They look at different aspects of similar proposals.
Where the local authority is the planning and licensing decision maker:
- planning will consider the principal use in light of the approved policies and the effects of the development on amenity (amongst various other considerations); and
- licensing must carry out its functions with a view to promoting the four licensing objectives. These are: the prevention of crime and disorder; public safety; the prevention of public nuisance; and the protection of children from harm.
Because of this, the two regimes do not always come to the same conclusions. Even where permissions are granted by both the planning and licensing authorities, those permissions might not necessarily be the same; allowing different operating hours or other restrictions/conditions. In such circumstances the more restrictive set of permissions will typically prevail.
We sometimes see clients who have committed financially to projects without having obtained planning permission, licensing approval or both. It is imperative, particularly where large financial outlays (particularly in respect of long commercial leases) are present, to take legal advice at the earliest opportunity. Further, where possible, to make any financial commitment in respect of a business venture conditional upon obtaining the appropriate planning and licensing approvals.
If you are considering opening a new licensed premises or embarking upon the variation of an existing one and have queries in this regard, then we can help. Call our Licensing team today on 0113 297 1875.