Agenda and minutes
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Contact: Committee Section
Apologies for absence
An apology for absence was received from Cllr Emma Elliott and Cllr Jordan Meade attended as her substitute.
The minutes of the meeting held on 5 November 2019 were signed by the Chair.
To declare any interests members may have in the items contained on this agenda. When declaring an interest a member must state what their interest is.
No declarations of interest were made.
The Regulatory Services Manager gave an update on how the Council had supported licence holders during the pandemic and how compliance had been and would be monitored. The following points from the report were highlighted:
· Soon after lockdown the Institute of Licensing published the first version of its Protocol for Licence Applications and Hearing under the Licensing Act 2003 During the Covid-19 Pandemic and the report set out the intentions of this document.
· Despite the challenges of lockdown and the constant stream of change and uncertainty, the Licensing Team had adapted quickly in order to continue to operate the Council’s licensing functions within the existing statutory timescales.
· Staff had had to work from home and had been issued laptops with full access to all relevant systems. Because staff had not been present in the office, all incoming calls had been taken and managed by Customer Services as far as possible, including signposting to relevant parts of the GBC website, with messages being emailed to Licensing officers to respond accordingly.
· Arrangements were made for post to be collected, scanned and then processed remotely.
· Taxi and private hire vehicles were emailed temporary exemptions from displaying current plates/badges and drivers were asked to continue to display their old plates/badges alongside the temporary exemption and asked to keep the letter with them at all times.
It was noted that given the efforts made by the team, Gravesham’s licence holders were highly unlikely to have observed any reduction in licensing service provided by the Council during lockdown.
The team had also pushed ahead with the digital offering with the expert help of the Digital Team. Online forms, developed over the years, had been consolidated into an improved online service which included payment facilities, online application forms for licences, notices and other functions such as the ability to change personal details. This had become an invaluable tool for officers and clients who were able to access these services from home during lockdown. Members noted that the number of applications for licences had not reduced during lockdown and statutory timescales had been met throughout.
Partnership working was also highlighted including the work undertaken by the Council’s Environmental Services Commercial Team after routine food hygiene inspections were halted by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) during lockdown. The Licensing Team had also worked closely with the Police, Trading Standards and other teams in the Council to ensure continuity of service and support for businesses in Gravesham during the pandemic. All businesses in the Borough had been contacted via email by the Team in advance of re-opening which had worked very well.
The Regulatory Services Manager also gave details of the next steps for the team following the easing of lockdown which included:
· Issuing full licences to those currently issued with a temporary licence or missing the accompanying badge or plate.
· Managing the collection of deferred fees.
· Processing any outstanding licence renewal requirements.
· Whilst visits currently continued to be mainly reactive and intelligence led, targeted and joined-up monitoring was and ... view the full minutes text for item 4.
The report gave an update on Licensing Panel hearings that have taken place since the last Licensing Committee meeting held on 5 November 2019. The Chair thanked the Licensing team, the police and others for enabling Panels to take place. In addition, he reminded Members that there would be meetings of the Licensing Panel on Monday, 21 and Tuesday, 22 September 2020.
Resolved that the report be noted.
The Regulatory Services Manager advised Members on the provisions of the Business and Planning Act 2020 relating to pavement licences and associated off-sales of alcohol and noted that the regime would be managed by the Licensing Team. The Government had introduced the Bill as part of measures to promote economic growth in the hospitality sector following the pandemic. The effect of the legislation was to fast-track the process until September 2021 when it would return to being the responsibility of the County Council as it was previously. It had been extremely onerous to introduce a completely new regime within 4 weeks but it had been successfully achieved.
The Committee’s attention was drawn to an associated amendment to the Licensing Act 2003 to allow premises with a licence authorising ‘on-sales’ only (sales of alcohol for consumption on the premises) to automatically have ‘off-sales’ added to their licence.
In conclusion, the Regulatory Services Manager advised that the report was in accordance with the Council’s Constitution and therefore the Planning Committee had delegated authority to the Director (Communities) and the process would be managed by the Licensing team.
The following points were raised during discussion on this item:
· Concern was raised on the lack of appeals process and the officer explained that there was a fast-track review process. It was possible to review the license as a whole which would depend on the available evidence. However if the issue only related of off-sales, then only that element would be reviewed.
· It was noted that the new pavement licenses would help the economy and create a friendlier atmosphere in the area and any problems would be reported to the Council. The Chair noted that it had taken 15 years for the Licensing Act 2003 to encourage the continental approach to the use of pavements.
· Questions were raised with regard to the following:
- The placement of furniture in front of premises and Members were advised that licence holders were only permitted to use the area directly in front of their premises and needed the consent of neighbours to encroach. Furniture or any boundary fences were not permitted within 1.5 metres of the highway which expanded to 2 metres on busy pedestrian thoroughfares and highways and would not be permitted near, for example, zebra crossings, bus stops etc.
- With regard to the use of outdoor heaters, the Committee was informed that there were conditions on the type of heaters that were permitted and this did not include gas heaters but did include electric heaters. However, should an issue arise with any type of heater then this could change.
- The officer confirmed that only a handful of pavement licence applications had been received by the Council and that given the seasons changing it was possible there would be more come the Spring.
· The concern of the Gravesham Access Group was reported in relation to blind and partially sighted people and wheelchair users being put at risk by street furniture. The officer provided an overview ... view the full minutes text for item 6.