Government plans for a radical reform of the licensing laws to reduce anti-social behaviour and binge drinking could make it harder for stores to obtain or retain a licence.

Retail groups are horrified at some of the proposed measures, which would give local authorities stronger powers to remove licences from premises that they believe are causing problems without judicial process or right of reply.

Association of Convenience Stores chief executive James Lowman described the proposed changes as “policies that are poorly conceived and massively burdensome on thousands of responsible businesses”. 

He added that they would “hand absolute power to local authorities, residents’ groups and police, while businesses would lose even basic rights of appeal”.

Under the proposals, any local people in the general area would be able to object to licence applications, not just the closest neighbours. They would also allow councils and the police to shut down shops found to be persistently selling alcohol to children, and double the maximum fine for under-age alcohol sales to £20,000. 

Retailers insist that any proposals must target individual premises, rather than ‘blanket’ restrictions on town centres or neighbourhoods which would punish responsible retailers.
The proposals are open to a six-week consultation and can be found at the Home Office website.