Restrictions lifted in court win

28 August, 2008

Late licence granted to Merseyside retailer following High Court appeal

Retailers in Ecclesfield have won an appeal against restrictions imposed on their new off-licence - highlighting how important it is for local authorities to justify licensing conditions.

The win for TC's Mini Mart - which also saw costs awarded against the council - follows a landmark case earlier this year when the High Court

found that Wirral magistrates had made an unlawful ruling by reversing the local council's decision to allow Daniel Thwaites a late licence for a hotel.

The High Court decided the magistrates had refused the licence without proper evidence after a local conservation society appealed the council's decision to grant the late licence.

In this latest case, solicitors John Gaunt & Partners advised the Mini Mart's owners, Terry and Caroline Fieldhouse, to appeal against licensing conditions which were added following complaints based on "assumption and speculation", said District Judge Sheila Driver.

The licensing authority had restricted the opening hours, a s well as the amount of floor space for alcohol display, and had ordered the permanent presence of the designated premises supervisor

a nd the provision of litter bins.

These were all examined and dismissed

by the judge.

Local residents had legitimate and genuine concerns, but these were nothing to do with the application, said the judge. The premises had previously been closed for three years during which trouble occurred and residents expected that this licence would add to the problems. "The Act and the

guidance do not allow for speculation," she said.

She held it was not clear whether the committee had addressed the four licensing objectives or taken account of the

guidance, as no reasons for its decision were given. As they had chosen to oppose the appeal, the applicants were entitled to costs in full.

It is not known whether the council intends to appeal to the

administrative

court.

OLN legal correspondent Peter Coulson said: "This decision underlines the importance of the Thwaites case in asking local authorities to look at the reasons for imposing restrictive conditions in cases where they are not justified. There must be clear reasons, backed by evidence, for councils using their new powers to restrict trading by off-licensed premises.

"The judge was firm

that the council had not thought clearly about what the Act and the

guidance intended."




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