Report of the Director of Markets and Consumer Protection.
The Committee considered a report of the Director of Markets and Consumer Protection providing a summary of pavement licences currently granted and outlining proposals to facilitate the pavement licence application process until 30 September 2022.
Officers introduced the report by stating that it amended the Al Fresco Policy to take account of proposed legislative changes under the Business and Planning Act 2020 and also national guidance. Essentially, the amendments to the policy as set out within the report extended the time limit for providing tables and chairs under the Business and Planning Act until the end of September 2022 as opposed to the end of September 2021. It was highlighted that this was still yet to have completed the parliamentary process but it was hoped that this would happen by the end of this week and ahead of the parliamentary recess. The report also asked that the ‘zero’ fee approved by Members last year be extended. Officers reported that there were approximately 84 live licences and that, introducing a fee for these would only generate around £8-9,000 in revenue, with the department actually incurring costs in terms of collecting this. Finally, it was reported that national guidance had been produced by the Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure around counter-terrorism and this recommended that any existing CCTV was operational and that anyone involved with pavement licences, particularly the licence holder, should complete the ACT (Action Counter Terrorism) training. Officers were supportive of this and outlined that they did not feel that this was too onerous a task. Officers highlighted that many Members and those within the trade had questioned whether these provisions were likely to be made permanent but stated that this remained unclear at present. Officers highlighted that a document entitled ‘Build Back Better Highstreets’ released by the government earlier this year did have a section dedicated to pavement licences and did discuss these changes under the Business and Planning Act, stating that the desire was for these to be made permanent.
The Deputy Chairman referred to paragraph 10 (c) of the report, commenting that he felt that this added to the requirements for licencees and questioned whether it was necessary for them to have to consider counter-terrorism vulnerabilities in the premises risk assessment and require that the follow the new guidance/training as he felt that this seemed to be overly bureaucratic. He championed a more flexible approach to these requirements to help businesses to get back to where they wanted to be. Officers assured the Committee that a proportionate response would be taken here.
Another Member spoke, highlighting that she had raised these same points when the matter had been considered by the Licensing Committee last week. She outlined that the national guidance around counter terrorism was clear in that if a pavement licence holder did not already have CCTV, they were not required to install it in order to meet the requirements to hold the licence. However, whilst the second part of paragraph 5 of Appendix D tracked the national guidance, the opening sentence of this paragraph confused the matter and could be read as suggesting that a licence holder must install CCTV to cover their pavement licence area if they had not already done so which went beyond the national guidance. She therefore questioned whether this was the City’s attempt to, unusually and disproportionately, create an additional condition and require that small cafes with perhaps just one or two tables outside to have expensive CCTV equipment in operation at a time when businesses were struggling to recover from the pandemic. The Member concluded by proposing that the first sentence of paragraph 5 at Appendix D was therefore removed in its entirety.
Another Member spoke to support this point around CCTV requirements and underlined that, over the years CCTV had not been a standard requirement for either new licences or licence renewals with the Licensing Committee only tending to insist on it where there had been a problem such as antisocial behaviour leading to a licence review. He added that CCTV was also automatically installed in places such as larger nightclubs or larger premises within residential areas. The Member reported that, when this matter had been discussed at the most recent meeting of the Licensing Committee, the City of London Police had spoken to suggest that it was not their intention that every premises with a pavement licence should now have CCTV. The Member went on to state that those premises who had not previously had tables and chairs outside may find it impractical to change the focus of their existing CCTV to monitor this pavement area. He felt that this matter should be dealt with on a discretionary basis and not be made a standard requirement.
Officers responded to these points to clarify that it was not their intention to insist that all premises had a CCTV system in operation and that this paragraph was aimed at those premises who already had existing CCTV and the need to ensure that this was functional and being used and monitored. They stated that they would be happy to amend or remove the opening part of this paragraph to make this clearer to all. It was also highlighted that these points were not conditions of licence but were intended as guidance/recommendations to pavement licence holders.
With regard to proportionality, Officers reported that the placing of tables and chairs, although not necessarily that different to the old tables and chairs system, had brought to light the possible dangers associated with their positioning on the pavement, particularly with regard to terrorism. The idea of recommending training was therefore around raising people’s awareness of these possible dangers and no more. It was confirmed that the training took no longer than 25 minutes to complete and was offered free of charge. It was not therefore felt that this was too onerous a task and neither did it slow down the decision -making process for any new applications.
Officers added that they had worked closely with the Police to ensure that the approach to pavement licences was streamlined with them and were pleased to report that this had been working extremely well to date with no issues to report in the recent past around good, proportionate decision making. It was not the Police’s intention to request the installation of CCTV for all premises with pavement licences but more to ensure that those who did already have the systems in place had them in working order and were regularly monitoring them. It was highlighted that this was also about the prevention of crime and disorder in general as well as counter-terrorism.
After hearing Officers confirm that it was not the intention to require the installation of CCTV where it did not already exist, a Member suggested that the opening sentence of paragraph 5 of Appendix D (page 131) be deleted. He was satisfied that the second part of this paragraph very clearly dealt with existing CCTV systems and therefore tracked national guidance/national model conditions. A second Member agreed with this proposal, suggesting that the inclusion of the opening sentence of paragraph 5, Appendix D confused the policy and could cause difficulties for Officers considering applications further down the line.
Another Member requested clarity on the requirements around existing CCTV systems which he underlined may require further expenditure for licensees to upgrade or add to in order to cover the area outside of their premises. Officers clarified that a proportionate response would be expected.
Some Members underlined that they had raised these concerns at the most recent meeting of the Licensing Committee where this report had been submitted for information. Some Members advocated for the report being amended by Officers to deal with the points raised today before being resubmitted to both this and the Licensing Committee for decision.
Another Member underlined that licensed premises needed clarity on this matter and therefore expressed concern around deferring a decision today. He added that, if the only real point of contention, was the opening sentence of paragraph 5, Appendix D, then he would support the suggestion that this be deleted and ask that the Committee vote on this if necessary. Other Members spoke in support of this suggestion and the need to offer clarity to the licensing trade on requirements for the year ahead as soon as possible.
In response to a question regarding the timing of a decision on this, Officers clarified that the current legislation which permitted pavement licences would expire at the end of September 2021. If there were to be no amendments to the Business and Planning Act ahead of this date, pavement licences would no longer be in existence. If, however, the legislation which had been drafted by parliament and was in place as a statutory instrument, did gain parliamentary approval, this would be extended until the end of September 2022. A decision on this matter would therefore be required by the end of September 2021 at the latest, although it was noted that it would be preferable for the Committee to reach a decision today so that Officers were not put in a position where they were only able to grant any applications for licences received in August for a period of just 2-3 weeks before renewing.
RESOLVED – That, subject to the deletion of the first sentence of paragraph 5, Appendix D, Members: