A councillor is spearheading moves to give South Holland District Council (SHDC) legal powers to restrict the number of off licences in Spalding.
Coun Malcolm Chandler, South Holland District Council’s portfolio holder in charge of licensing, has submitted evidence to a Parliamentary committee to try to reverse some of the provisions of the 2003 Licensing Act.
He says the Act was intended to introduce a cafe-bar culture, but scrapped too many controls on off-licences.
“It did away with the need to be approved,” he said. “It did away with the suitability of the premises, it did away with the suitability of the applicant and it left the number of off-licences down to market forces.”
As the law stands, council licensing panels can only turn down applications for off-licences where there are objections from authorities like Lincolnshire Police or Trading Standards. Objections are usually raised on grounds where licensing objectives are likely to be undermined, for example by criminal behaviour.
If police or Trading Standards object, the council licensing panel will hear evidence from the authorities and the applicant before deciding if the off-licence can open.
As reported in our sister paper, the Spalding Guardian, SHDC is currently gathering evidence to see if it can restrict the number of new off licences in one or more areas in Spalding by adopting a Cumulative Impact Policy (CIP).
Coun Chandler says evidence is being gathered for the CIP despite a fall in the number of off-licences in Spalding.
He says the number has dropped from around 26/27 to 21/22.
A handful lost their licences after being proven to be involved in illegal alcohol sales, illegal cigarette sales or both.
Coun Chandler says local authorities are left without a sanction to fit the crime when off-licences are caught selling illegal cigarettes and tobacco.
“All we can do now is take their alcohol licence away,” he said. “If there was a licence for selling cigarettes and tobacco, then we would be able to take that away to stop them openly selling cigarettes and tobacco.”
Coun Chandler says he would like to see the introduction of a licence for tobacco and cigarette sales.
The CIP will be focused on anti-social behaviour arising from the concentration of off-licences in particular areas and the council is now gathering evidence from the police, health authority, Trading Standards, its own licensing department and the public.
A report listing its findings and recommendations will go to the licensing committee on October 18.
A council spokesman explained: “A decision will then be made based on the evidence provided by the responsible authorities and interested parties with a requirement to resolve a specific set of issues.
“Where evidence supports restricting the growth of businesses licensed to sell alcohol, it will be referred to legal scrutiny that the evidence is robust, rebuttable and proportionate to deal with the identified objectives.”
• Spalding is covered by a DPPO (designated public place order), which gives police limited powers to tackle street drinking. But that is due to be replaced in October 2017 by a PSPO (public space protection order), which will bring in new on the spot fines of £100 for anyone involved in persistent anti-social behaviour, including street drinking.