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Norwich Latest Authority to Introduce a Cumulative Impact Policy

Norwich City Council has agreed to introduce a Cumulative Impact Policy (CIP) for part of the city centre. There has been a significant amount of time and work in Norwich after the City Council announced its multi point plan for dealing with issues created by the night time economy. The initial report can be seen from the link below which introduced a number of initiatives:

This document shows how the council looked at their various options, gives their reasons for abandoning the introduction of an EMRO and why it was thought that the potential return from the Late Night Levy was not worth going through the process of its introduction. A number of practical initiatives are promoted, such as, the introduction of the additional CCTV, introduction of night time road closures and working with the trade to provide toilet provision at the end of the night.

The major new initiative proposed was the introduction of a Cumulative Impact Policy.

Those who have read my previous articles on CIPs will know of my view that these should be used and treated with caution. There are well over 200 of them nationally. They are not mentioned in the Licensing Act, but are a creature of the S182 Guidance. If they are not used judiciously they can lead to the stagnation of the offer of licensed premises in areas where the introduction of new/better operators might be of an overall benefit.

When a policy is under consideration there is a suggested consultation process which should be undertaken before they are introduced, and they should only come into existence if there is an evidential basis for their introduction. Chapter 13 of the S182 Guidance deals with CIPs, Para 13.24 states:

‘There should be an evidential basis for the decision to include a special policy within the statement of licensing policy. Local Community Safety Partnerships and responsible authorities, such as the police and the local authority exercising environmental health functions, may hold relevant information which would inform licensing authorities when establishing the evidence base for introducing a special policy relating to cumulative impact into their licensing policy statement. Information which licensing authorities may be able to draw on to evidence the cumulative impact of licensed premises on the promotion of the licensing objectives includes:

  • local crime and disorder statistics, including statistics on specific types of crime and crime hotspots;
  • statistics on local anti-social behaviour offences;
  • health-related statistics such as alcohol-related emergency attendances and hospital admissions;
  • environmental health complaints, particularly in relation to litter and noise;
  • complaints recorded by the local authority, which may include complaints raised by local residents or residents’ associations;
  • residents’ questionnaires;
  • evidence from local councillors; and
  • evidence obtained through local consultation’.

Once a policy is introduced it must be engaged properly. The policy should not be used as a blanket ban on new applications or variations.

Para 13.30 of the policy states:

‘The effect of adopting a special policy of this kind is to create a rebuttable presumption that applications for the grant or variation of premises licences or club premises certificates which are likely to add to the existing cumulative impact will normally be refused or subject to certain limitations, following relevant representations, unless the applicant can demonstrate in the operating schedule that there will be no negative cumulative impact on one or more of the licensing objectives. Applicants should give consideration to potential cumulative impact issues when setting out the steps they will take to promote the licensing objectives in their application’.

The Police and Licensing Authority should, therefore, be taking a pragmatic approach when new applications are lodged in a CIP area. Is it a genuinely different offer which will not add to the problems in the CIP area? Has there been good engagement with the responsible authorities to explain the application and why the applicant believes they will not add to the problems in an area? Is the operating schedule/conditions offered tailored to the issues in the area?

We have recently been successful with an application to vary a premises licence in the “red zone” in Leeds to introduce a VIP area into a previously unlicensed area. We agreed to keep to the previous capacity level at the premises, which was a condition on the premises licence. The Authority accepted that the variation had rebutted the presumption of refusal in that the agreed capacity condition, pre booked booths and waitress service was actually beneficial to the operation of the premises and the application was allowed by the licensing sub-committee. This is an example of where the local CIP is not hindering the development of a more mature offer at premises which will promote the licensing objectives.

It will be interesting to see whether the Norwich policy has a positive effect and deals with issues in the locality.