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Paddy takes a look back at 2023 and forward to 2024

At our final solicitors meeting of the year we were looking at topics for end of year newsletter. I said I would do a review of 2023 looking forward at the same time to 2024. I am sure we say it every year but as we approach 2024 we all said that the year has flown by so quickly, and we have seen some significant changes. As I am finalising this I have just seen that it is 9 years today since the first review hearing for fabric. What a journey that was with a successful appeal, summary review and then settling the next appeal by consent order. fabric has gone on from strength to strength and survived Covid lockdowns and uncertainty. We went from a space where the Police were desperate to close the premises, to a safe environment where people can express themselves and young musical talent can flourish. Thank goodness we were able to persuade Islington of the importance of the venue.

It is interesting to look back at this as we analyse what 2023 has seen. There seems to be a greater swing towards enforcement again. It goes without saying that some enforcement is necessary, if there are rogue operators who are creating issues by not promoting the licensing objectives, then they can expect nothing more than being looked at closely. What we need to see is a graduated response so that operators who have built up years of goodwill can put right any issues which may have slipped. Enforcement proceedings in Leeds for example are significantly higher than we have seen for years with a large operation attacking off-licences in the her Harehills area of Leeds. We are instructed in some of these reviews and it’s going to be interesting to see how they are dealt with by the licensing sub-committee.

One of the areas that we have seen huge increases in this year is the number of appeals. I currently have appeals in Leeds, Swindon, Bristol, Hackney and several at Thames magistrates Court. There appears to be a significantly larger number of Licensing Act appeals than I have seen for a number of years. This is where we are in difficulties as some Magistrates Courts have an inability to deal with these appeals in a reasonable timescale. Some courts are clearly struggling and are not processing Licensing matters as quickly as they should because they are deemed to be non-urgent matters.

Another of the areas where we are seeing increased appeals is arising out of noise abatement notices. They appear to be a tool that are being used much more frequently than previously. I have a current set of circumstances were an abatement notice was served. We lodged an appeal against that and prior to the case management hearing we agreed a course of action with the authority in such a way that the appeal was settled by a consent order. Rather surprisingly after one further noise complaint another abatement notice was issued which is now the subject of the second appeal. I do feel in those particular circumstances a mediated approach, which my clients are keen to offer, would have saved everybody a significant amount of time. This is at a time when some operators are fighting for survival and many local authorities struggling to offer the services they want to due to reduced budgets.

One area that I have seen a willingness to assist responsible operators in is the relaxation of the controls of cumulative impact policies/stress areas in some key locations. This has led to the development of a brand-new £2.5 million award-winning premises in Nottingham which probably would not have been granted prior to the parking of he cumulative impact policy. The same operator has managed to secure a new licence in Newcastle in the stress area and against significant opposition and is now opened having spent £2.5 million pounds on the refit of refurbishment of another listed building. It is hoped that a sensible approach will continue to be taken to support the leisure industry which is still struggling having had all of the pressures of Covid lockdowns, train strikes and the fact that people have less disposable income at their fingertips currently.

It is good news that in August of this year the pavement licensing relaxations were granted an additional 12-month extension, valid until 30 September 2024. This was about as swift an about-turn as we have ever seen and the trade will be hoping that policymakers see the light and grant a permanent extension to the rigid regime prior to 30 September 2024 cut-off date.

Changes in the gambling sector have been frustratingly slow. We waited for what seemed like forever for the white paper to be announced highlighting the potential for changes to the Gambling Act. There was a flurry of activity amongst operators as we started to look at the potential implications of the changes suggested. However, we have now been slowed down by the number of consultations that are taking place and a lack of drive to get to the finish line. Operators that I deal with are becoming frustrated at the amount of time it is taking to get certainty. Some of the consultations still have time to run and if you want assistance in putting in your views then please contact me.

One of the areas which may impact in to all premises next year is “Martyn’s Law”, more officially known as the Terrorism (Protection of Premises) Bill. This featured in the King’s Speech and forms part of the Government’s legislative programme for the coming Parliamentary year. The Draft Bill aims to place a duty on qualifying public premises or events to take certain steps to reduce the threat of terrorism to the public. I have to say that I hadn’t paid enough attention to this until I listened to a presentation at the IOL National conference. It has the potential to make a huge impact and needs to be carefully followed, it is something that needs to be monitored as it goes through Parliament.

Finally, the Section 182 Guidance has recently been amended to include information regarding spiking, the full Revised Guidance can be found here –

Revised Guidance issued under section 182 of the Licensing Act 2003 (

With the mix of potential changes for next year we are sure that 2024 will be an interesting year to be involved in the licensing world. All at Woods Whur wish you a very Happy Christmas and for a great New Year.