Bristol City Council have adopted a new Licensing Policy. Although it contains a number of improvements to existing policy, it also removes the Cumulative Impact Areas (CIAs). CIAs made it easier for Licensing committees to refuse a new or later licence in predefined areas where an accumulation of licensed venues was making it difficult to prevent crime or public nuisance.
Bristol’s Green councillors have expressed solidarity with communities concerned about the loss of this protection, and promised to continue to support the residents they represent.
Councillor Eleanor Combley, who sits on the Licensing Committee, said “It is important to acknowledge that there are benefits to this review of licensing policy.
“It makes the licensing regime clearer for venues. The old policy imposed long lists of standard conditions which may or may not be relevant or helpful. Now the licensing committee has to consider the style and location of each individual venue and choose the right conditions. Clear, concise and relevant conditions should be easier to stick to and to enforce, which is better for everyone.
“It embeds the agent of change principle into licensing policy. Agent of change is something Green councillors in Bristol have pushed for. It makes developers responsible for putting adequate sound proofing in new flats, to prevent conflict caused by new housing going in next to existing music venues. This protects both existing venues and residents.
“It introduces a rule for staff training on preventing child sexual exploitation. Staff need to be able to spot the signs and learn how to act to help keep those children safe.
“It recognises public health impacts like alcohol harm as a public safety consideration.
“However the removal of CIAs is of great concern to many residents and to the councillors who represent them. We recognise the hard work that went into getting them established, and have made good use of them to help our local communities protect normal sleeping hours or maintain the diversity of the local economy.
“The change is down to new rules from national government, who have increased the threshold for evidence required to keep them in place. Avon and Somerset Police licensing officers have done a huge amount of work to produce enough evidence for the city centre CIA, which covers the area from Stokes Croft to Queens Square and Clifton Triangle. This will be going out to consultation in the near future so people can have their say on it.
“When the new licensing policy was voted through at Full Council this month, the Greens supported an amendment that urged rapid action to work with communities to reinstate CIAs where needed. Unfortunately Labour voted it down, but that won’t stop Green councillors working with the communities we represent. The old CIAs were far from perfect. Councillors and communities can work together to develop new CIAs that are more effective and more targeted on local needs.
“In the meantime, losing your local CIA doesn’t mean a guaranteed green light for new venues. Licensing committees can still consider the cumulative impact of multiple venues on an area, providing that police or residents raise it as an issue in their comments on the application. We have asked for updated training for all members in the light of these changes. All councillors should be aware of the powers we do still have, whether as members of the committee or in supporting our communities.”
Councillor Carla Denyer, who has supported residents in Clifton Down with licensing issues, said,
“Whiteladies Road has hugely benefitted from being designated a Cumulative Impact Area in recent years. It has made it easier for residents, police and councillors to resist the creep towards ever-later closing times for bars in and near residential areas, and prevent new bars and nightclubs where they would cause harm, while still allowing new licensed premises to open where they offer something fresh and new, and where they have a conditions to ensure they are managed well.
“It sounds like the new licensing policy will still allow us to do these things – I certainly hope so. We also still have the planning system to rely on (new licensed premises need planning and licensing consent). But if it doesn’t work out OK, I will be at the front of the queue to apply for a new CIA, and hope that local residents, businesses and the police will work with me on that.”