Westminster council is carrying out a review of its licensing policy including changing its West End cumulative impact zone, tackling racial discrimination at licensed premises, and is holding a public consultation before finalising its new policy.
While licensed premises contribute a huge amount to the local economy they can also create problems for residents and local services states the local authority.
“The Council’s Licensing Policy aims to prevent crime and disorder, ensure public safety and protect children from harm. We are currently updating our policy and want to know what residents think,” says Councillor Heather Acton, cabinet member for public protection and licensing.
The council carried out a cumulative impact assessment where the council collected information on alcohol-related crime, disorder and noise nuisance and analysed the data across geographic areas. The assessment is used to create a map where additional restrictions on premises licences are required.
“The CIA findings indicated before the impact of COVID-19 cumulative stress within the West End had increased and the area to which it was occurring had expanded from the current West End cumulative impact area boundary.
“The effect of cumulative impact was significant in the heart of the West End (Zone 1) where the rates of incidents were nine times above the borough average. The area surrounding Zone 1 (Zone 2) also showed signs of cumulative impact but had a lower incident rate of four times above the borough average,” says a the report on changes to the policy.
In Fitzrovia this would move the cumulative impact area north to Mortimer Street and Goodge Street.
However, the council in its report on the proposed changes says it will not adopt the recommendations because COVID-19 “has created an unprecedented situation where licensed premises have had to restrict their operations significantly”.
Westminster says it “will not seek to impose an expansion of the West End Cumulative Impact Zone or introduce the presumption of refusal to other premises use types within this zone at this time”.
Instead, as and when “visitor numbers increase, and associated incidents rise outside the current West End Cumulative Impact Zone, the Licensing Authority will review this approach”.
The council is now actually proposing to reduce the cumulative impact area — removing streets in eastern Covent Garden.
The council is also revising out-of-date information or references to legislation, and strategies or guidance that have changed since the SLP was last revised in 2015.
The proposed changes also include its approach to promoting inclusion in the evening and night-time economy. This follows follows an investigation “following a number of reports that people were being discriminated against due to their race in licensed premises in Westminster”.
The council created a Scrutiny Commission Task Group which focused its investigation on nightclubs as they were the subject to original complaints, however, the recommendations of the report can apply to all licensed premises. One of the report’s recommendations was that “The licensing authority should encourage applicants to provide information/details about how they will ensure and support inclusivity as part of the operating schedule attached to a premise’s licence.”
Other changes include: a revised Protection of Children from Harm policy to make safeguarding a key consideration; a revised “core hours” policy, based on premises use rather than licensable activities; a change to the way its presents policies; replacement of the Theatres, Cinemas, Other Performance Venues and Qualifying Clubs Policy with two new policies: one for Cinemas, Cultural Venues, Live Sporting Premises and Outdoor Spaces, and another for Qualifying Clubs.
Westminster council will be hosting two virtual question and answers sessions on the proposed changes to the licensing policy: on Monday 19 October for businesses; and on Monday 26 October for residents.
The consultation will run until Sunday 15 November 2020.
Public consultation: Licensing Policy and Cumulative Impact Assessment.