Local authorities have called for new rules to enable them to limit the number of licences they grant by taking into account alcohol-related health problems in an area.
The Local Government Association (LGA) has proposed a new ‘public health’ objective to be included in the licensing decision-making process. It says local areas should be able to limit the opening of off licences, pubs and clubs in areas where alcohol-related health problems are rife.
But the Association of Convenience Stores has dismissed the proposals. Public affairs director Shane Brennan said: “Cumulative impact policies are something we oppose. There is no strong evidence linking premises that sell alcohol with alcohol-related health problems in an area.”
Local health experts – under the Police and Social Responsibility Act 2011 – are able to present health-related evidence, such as ambulance call-out data and hospital admissions, to councils ruling on licences. But councils are forced to ignore this advice when considering applications under government rules.
Cllr Katie Hall, Chair of the LGA’s Community Wellbeing Board, said: “Local health experts have a vital role to play in advising councils on the potential impacts of an application to open new licensed premises. That makes it even more nonsensical that councils are being forced to ignore their advice when considering additional licences they know could be a health hazard.
“The government needs to see sense and help communities by updating licensing rules and adding a new health objective. This would help improve the health of local areas and also ease the pressure on the nation’s stretched health services.”