Industry law firm Berwin Leighton Paisner has warned that the government's impending changes to licensing laws could actually make existing problems with the system worse.
Craig Baylis, head of licensing at BLP, warned licensees of the potential pitfalls in the changes that will come into play at the end of the month at his industry briefing this morning.
The Minor Variations Order is intended to make the process of implementing minor changes to premises licences easier, faster and cheaper but Baylis says they may end up exacerbating existing problems.
He explained: "The old licensing process was expensive and cumbersome but the revised guidance may continue to cause time delays and inconsistencies between licensing authorities."
From next week, minor variations to licences will involve a flat fee of £89 instead of the previous £100-£2,000 as long as changes don't impact upon "licensing objectives".
However, local residents have ten days to comment on applications, local authorities must be consulted and the licensing officer must complete the process within 15 working days (rather than the previous 28) or the application will be automatically rejected.
Baylis warned: "There is no incentive for licensing officers to deal with requests quickly and if they reject proposals applicants cannot appeal. The decision is entirely at the licensing officer's discretion and this may vary between different authorities."
The Minor Variations to Premises Licences reform comes into force on 29 July.
By Emma White
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