Reservations expressed about changing Eastbourne town centre licensing rules
Residents are to have their say on whether or not Eastbourne’s town centre should remain a special licensing area.
On Tuesday (July 27), Eastbourne Borough Council’s licensing committee agreed to hold a six-week consultation on whether the town should maintain its cumulative impact area policy.
In simple terms, the policy (which was first adopted in 2007) sets a higher hurdle for applicants to clear when seeking licences of any kind within the town centre. As part of this, applications within the area can be refused unless the applicants can show there is good reason not to.
The consultation comes as the council is required to review this policy every three years, but unusually officers had recommended that the council seek views on ending and replacing it with a new set of borough-wide licensing principles.
Officers said this recommendation had been made in light of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on local businesses and the fact other authorities around the country had ended their cumulative impact policies in an attempt to attract new businesses to their areas.
While the committee agreed to include these options as part of the legally-required consultation, there was some scepticism from members about whether this was the right way forward.
Cllr Colin Belsey (Con, Ratton) said: “I’ve never been a great friend of the cumulative impact policy, but it has served us and the town well over the years. We used it not that long ago at the summer meeting.
“So I cannot see personally how it has suddenly come to light that it needs dropping. I struggle with that.
“It is up to us as councillors as to whether that licence is granted or not and I don’t see that changing whatsoever.
“There is no reason to change what we have already in my opinion. It may not be the same view as what everybody is having, but this is like tossing the baby out with the bathwater.”
Meanwhile Hampden Park councillor Jim Murrary (Lib Dem) asked if there was any evidence that applicants had been put off from seeking licences in Eastbourne as a result of the policy.
Officers replied that recent applications did not necessarily show applicants were aware of the policy before putting in their plans.
Officers also highlighted the fact that the policy did not prevent applications coming in, even those which do not comply with it.
Despite some concerns, the committee agreed to put the option of replacing the cumulative impact policy with new licensing principles out to consultation. It is expected to begin early next month and last for six weeks.
Its results will come back for further discussion by the licensing committee before a final decision is taken at full council.
During the same meeting, councillors also agreed to go out to consultation on its gambling policies. As with the cumulative impact policy, the council is required to consult with residents on these every three years.
Unlike the licensing policies, the council has not put forward the possibility of any significant changes to how gambling is regulated in the borough.
The only change being considered would be a new requirement for licenced premises which have more than two slot machines to provide details of where they are located and how they are supervised.