The Director of Neighbourhood Services submitted a report that presented Members with a draft revised Statement of Licensing Policy under the Licensing Act 2003. The Chairman stated that the Policy was an excellent piece of work and thanked the Officer for the report which covered everything that the Committee had been working on for the last year and which would make an enormous change to East Herts.
The Senior Specialist Licensing Officer provided a summary of the key changes, the detail of which was set out in the report. The Chairman was pleased to see the impact of licensing on public health detailed in the policy. He referred to the funding which would shortly become available from Hertfordshire County Council to support public health initiatives including any analytical research needed for the licensing function.
Councillor J Jones stated that the information contained in the paragraph “About East Herts” should contain a preamble regarding the date, e.g. “as of” as the statistical information would soon become out of date. This was supported. Members also suggested that the word “blight” be removed from the Policy Approach statement (paragraph 7). This was also supported.
Councillor J Jones referred to the proliferation of outdoor tables at locations throughout the District and how this obstructed pavements. The Senior Specialist Licensing Officer explained that Hertfordshire County Council had been contacted and asked for a copy of those businesses who had applied for and been granted permission to locate tables outside on pavements, but that they had not provided this information. The Senior Specialist Licensing Officer said that East Herts had approached the County Council regarding taking over the granting of pavement licences. County Council had agreed in principle to signing an agency agreement to that affect. Members supported a suggestion that Officers continued to pursue the agency agreement with Hertfordshire County Council to take on the responsibility of licensing those businesses requesting and/or having outdoor tables.
Members debated the issue of charging for pre-application advice. The Senior Specialist Licensing Officer stated that this was in line with what other services were doing including planning and trading standards. This was being investigated.
The Chairman referred to the paragraph on “Creating Family Friendly Town Centres”. Members supported the suggestion that Buntingford (High Street, Church Street) and Sawbridgeworth (Bell Street, London Road and Knight Street) be included in the policy. This was supported.
In response to a query by Councillor K Crofton regarding noise nuisance and enforcement, Officers advised that action was taken appropriate to relevant legislation and Government guidance to secure compliance. Officers advised that the revised policy addressed the issue in terms explaining to applicants what steps may be expected, for example sound proofing their buildings. The Senior Special Licensing Officer advised that he hoped the revised policy would provide the guidance to encourage responsible operators into the District.
The Chairman referred to tourism in the District and how more needed to be done to encourage this.
In response to a query from Councillor K Crofton, the Senior Specialist Licensing Officer advised that the document would be sent out for consultation with key stakeholders to ensure that the Policy was robust, before being submitted to Council for approval on 29 July 2015.
In response to a query from Councillor P Ballam, the Senior Specialist Licensing Officer assured Members that the consultation document would be widely available both online and hard copies for those without internet access.
The Committee gave their wholehearted support to the revised Licensing Policy and asked Officers to continue to work with Hertfordshire County Council regarding the District taking on responsibility for pavement licensing.
RESOLVED – that (A) the amended Licensing Policy be supported for the purposes of consultation; and
(B) Officers work with Hertfordshire County Council with regard to the District taking on responsibility for pavement licences.