If you sell alcohol, provide entertainment to people or sell hot food late at night between 11pm and 5am you need to obtain a Premises Licence under the provisions of the Licensing Act 2003.

This Guidance document is intended to assist Licensees and those applying for Premises Licences under the Licensing Act 2003, we hope to help you understand what the main public nuisance issues are likely to be for your business, how to assess their impact and how to control them.

Before the Council as Licensing Authority issues a licence it must be satisfied that you can comply with the four key objectives of the Act which are:

  • Prevention of crime and disorder
  • Prevention of public nuisance
  • Protection of public safety
  • Protection of children from harm

Where you require a variation in hours or activities, or you are applying for a new licence, you must demonstrate how you will comply with these objectives within the operating schedule that you submit along with you application. Before making a decision on an application, the Council as licensing authority must listen to the views of a number of other bodies called ‘Responsible Authorities’ (e.g. the police, Environmental Protection, Health & Safety, Fire Services), as well as other interested parties such as local residents. The Licensing Authority is able to vary or attach conditions to an application in order to ensure the above objectives will be met. In extreme circumstances where the Licensing Authority is satisfied the objectives cannot be met, the application will be normally be refused, although there is the right of appeal to magistrates’ court.

A thoughtful, relevant and well presented Operating Schedule will give confidence to the Council and Responsible Authorities that you have properly considered public nuisance issues and that you will properly control them. If you take time to do this well, your application is likely to succeed.

What is Public Nuisance?

Preventing Public Nuisance is an essential part of any business or organisation, and can be achieved by creating an environment that controls nuisance by training staff to increase their awareness and training so they can assess potential risks and work towards minimising possible disturbances.

You should also be aware that there is a duty to prevent statutory nuisance under the Environmental Protection Act 1990 and the Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003, irrespective of the licensing regime. Failure to do so can lead to action being taken by Environmental Health officers under the above legislation i.e. service of Notices requiring works and/or legal proceedings being taken.

Not every licensed premises will create problems, and those that do will vary depending on design and location and types of entertainment or activities proposed. Public nuisance is a broad concept, which concerns how the activity of one person (or business) affects the rights of another, for example, the noise escaping from licensed premises when music is being played can interfere with another person’s right to sleep. The degree to which activities are likely to cause public nuisance will depend on a number of factors including:

  • The time of day/night when the activities take place
  • How frequently they take place
  • How near they are to other people and premises that may be affected
  • The design, structure and layout of the premises
  • How well the activities are managed

This guide concentrates on four specific areas associated with licensed premises that need to be addressed in order to prevent public nuisance:

  • Noise
  • Odour
  • Litter, waste and street fouling
  • Light Pollution

As well as routine activities, you should also bear in mind temporary or one-off events such as parties and bank holiday arrangements which may not involve any extra cost, but could require greater management control.

You should also bear in mind the need to comply with other legal requirements, e.g. structural works which may need planning and building control approval, or your present planning permission may restrict the hours when you can open – having a licence does not override other regulatory controls.

It will be unlikely that any applicant will need to address all of these issues – maybe only one or two will be relevant – but careful consideration will always be best practice.

Noise Control

Noise can come either directly or indirectly from licensed premises. Direct noise, such as that from entertainment activity, will be under your direct control. Indirect noise, such as that from vehicles and customers coming and going to and from the premises may not be under your direct control, but you can strongly influence it.

Typical noise sources include:

  • Amplification systems and entertainment in general
  • Ventilation and air conditioning units
  • Chiller-units and beer pumps
  • Handling of barrels, kegs, cylinders and bottles outside
  • Vehicles, including taxis, customer and delivery vehicles
  • Outdoor play area and beer gardens
  • Fireworks
  • People gathering outside to smoke

If your premises are connected to other ‘noise sensitive’ premises (such as a dwelling or office) you will need to take extra care to ensure excessive noise and vibration does not pass through the structure of the building. You may wish to consult a specialist noise consultant in such circumstances. The Institute of Acoustics and the Association of Noise Consultants have a list of experts in this field (see list of useful Contacts)

Noise Control – What you need to do

You need to take all reasonable steps to:

  • Ensure noise is not audible at sensitive location such as dwellings, hospitals, hotels and other business premises (don’t forget the residential parts of other licensed premises in this area).
  • Ensure noise does not cause unreasonable disturbance to the wider public, such as passers-by and people using public facilities.

Greater control measures are needed for premises that operate late at night (after 11pm) and/or have regular entertainment.

Within the premises you can:

  • Keep windows, doors etc closed – NB for health and safety reasons it is very important to ensure the premises are properly ventilated and that access to emergency exits is not restricted.
  • Provide acoustically treated ventilation/air conditioning – allowing windows etc to be closed.
  • Use a sound lobby (with two sets of self closing doors) at the entrance/exit of premises.
  • Provide sound insulation to emergency exit doors and extractor fans.
  • Keep speakers inside the premises, and do not position them near to openings such as doors or windows.
  • Do not deliberately play or direct music outside the premises as a mean of attracting custom.

At the noise source you can:

  • Play sound amplification systems through a sound limiting device.
  • Use in-house speakers rather than artist and DJ speaker systems.
  • Provide sound insulated enclosures to external plant and machinery.
  • Provide sound insulation to ventilation ductwork and outlets.
  • Use anti-vibration mountings for speakers.
  • Consider the number, location and mounting of loudspeakers so that internal music levels can be kept low as possible and that the transmission of structure-borne noise is minimised
  • Use rubber matting and handling aids for the movement of barrels, cylinders, bottles etc.
  • Provide solid fencing/barrier around car parking, play areas and beer gardens etc.

In addition you can:

  • Ensure all staff, DJ’s and artists understand your noise control requirements and that you remain in ultimate control.
  • Operate at realistic times, which will not impact on others.
  • Use different finishing times for different parts of your operation – e.g. finish entertainment earlier than alcohol or food sales.
  • Play relaxing or calming music towards the end of an event and allow customers’ hearing to adjust before they leave the premises which will mean they are more likely to be quieter as they leave.
  • Use outdoor areas at reasonable times and do not remove waste and bottles late at night. * Use sign requesting customers and staff to be quiet when leaving the premises.
  • Designate a specific taxi firm for staff and customers to use and ensure that taxi drivers do not use the vehicle horn to attract attention.
  • Arrange for deliveries to be made at reasonable times.
  • Carry out regular monitoring checks to ensure noise is being adequately controlled.
  • Develop methods to control queuing outside premises and control of congregations of patrons outside premises on departure
  • Where noise-sensitive premises overlook the frontage of a licensed premises – consider an alternative exit route to a rear or side street, which may minimise noise

Use of Outside Areas

Careful consideration should also be given to the siting of smoking areas, gardens and play areas intended for the use of patrons, in order to minimise the risk of disturbance to neighbours. Noise from outside areas, usually shouting or loud voices is likely to be especially noticeable at night, when noise levels outside are relatively low.

Consideration should be given to avoiding:

  • The use of loud-speakers, PA systems or entertainment outside – in the majority of cases amplified music or voices should be restricted to indoor activities only
  • Any proposals to erect or use marquees etc for entertainment purposes
  • Any proposals for events with fireworks displays

Use of Car Parks and Access Roads

It is not only people that cause a disturbance their vehicles can also create noise through stereos, slamming doors, revving engines, the horn or screeching tyres for example.

Noise from car parks and access roads normally only becomes an issue when patrons are leaving a venue during the later part of the evening or night. The provision of closed circuit television (CCTV) systems in these areas can provide an effective and safe method of monitoring activities during these periods and can allow rapid control or prevention of incidents that may cause noise disturbance. It should be ensured that car parks do not become areas for congregation of patrons with associated playing of car-stereos and anti-social behaviour etc.

Please note. Employers have a duty under health and safety law to protect their employees from hearing damage caused by excessive noise. DJs, bar staff and others working in areas where amplified music us played are particularly at risk. If you employ staff who work in a noisy environment you should assess their level of noise exposure and control excessive noise.

Odour Control (Offensive Smells)

The main sources of odour from licensed premises are waste and bottle storage areas, drainage systems, and discharged air from kitchen extraction systems.

Most commercial kitchens will require a mechanical extraction system, and the type and size will depend on the size of the cooking facility, type of food prepared and type of cooking appliances used. You may need to get advice from specialist air handling engineers about controlling odour from kitchen air extraction systems.

When installing air extraction equipment you will need to take the following into account:

  • The extracted air should be discharged at a high level taking into account other buildings in the area – at least 1 metre above the highest point of the licensed premises or other nearby building is recommended.
  • The air being extracted from the cooking area should be replaced by clean air, ideally supplied by mechanical means. Opening windows and doors should be avoided.
  • The extraction system should be designed to ensure the flow of air is not restricted by acute angles in ductwork, dirty filters, inadequate fans and cowls at the exit point.
  • Use grease filters and other odour control techniques such as carbon filters, electrostatic precipitation, scrubbers and neutralising agents etc. Specialist advice should be taken on the suitability of such techniques.
  • Ensure noise from fan housings does not cause a nuisance to others.
  • In every system an effective and regular programme of cleaning and maintenance is of vital importance.

Controlling odour from waste and bottle storage areas is entirely down to good management practice which involves:

  • Using sealed waste bins big enough to hold all waste and which can be thoroughly cleaned.
  • Ensuring waste is collected on a regular basis by a reputable/licensed waste carrier.
  • Screening waste storage areas from sight and making sure the area can be properly cleaned and has adequate drainage.
  • Using a regular cleaning programme for all storage areas and waste bins.

Odour comes from blocked and inadequately vented drainage systems, so it is important to:

  • Ensure food waste is not put into the drainage system.
  • Regularly clean grease traps and drainage systems
  • Ensure the head of the drainage system is vented at a high level using a vent stack.

When installing ductwork, consult Gravesham Planning & Regeneration Services to find out if you need permission.

In addition to the above, you should take care to ensure cooking odours do not filter through the structure into adjoining premises by sealing gaps around services in party walls and ceilings.

Mobile traders should think carefully about where they site their vehicle in order to avoid odour problems.

Control of Litter, Waste and Street Fouling

Licensed premises of all types can potentially cause public nuisance from litter and waste. There are a number of laws relating to proper waste collection and disposal, not least of which is the ‘duty of care’ to ensure any waste is properly contained and controlled while in the operator’s possession, and that it is collected by a reputable waste carrier. The Licensing Act does not duplicate these laws, but you will need to apply good waste management practice in order to prevent public nuisance.

Uncontrolled litter, waste and street fouling is unsightly and can lead to a negative image of the area. It can cause offensive odour, may attract rats and insects and therefore be a public health risk, it may cause people to slip, trip and injure themselves, and it may harm the reputation of your business.

Typical examples of litter, waste and street fouling that may cause problems include take away packaging and food dropped by customers, wind blown waste and litter from unsatisfactorily protected refuse storage areas, discarded and broken bottles, glasses and cans, promotional leaflets (flyers) and posters, and people who have consumed too much alcohol and urinate and vomit in the street.

This is becoming an increasing problem, particularly in our town and city centres. With extended drinking hours, and possible increased alcohol consumption, the potential for such anti-social behaviour is much greater. Clearly the individuals concerned are ultimately responsible for their actions which in some cases can result in criminal action being taken. However you can take action to help prevent this happening and make our street an attractive environment for all.

What you can do:

  • Contact Gravesham’s Waste Management Services by telephone 01474 337449, to discuss your waste disposal needs or to arrange a contract with the council.
  • Ensure there are enough storage facilities for waste to prevent any overspill from containers. Fully contained and lockable bins which can be thoroughly cleaned and kept away or screened from public areas are recommended.
  • Reduce packaging to a minimum and recycle bottles, cans and other waste wherever possible.
  • Set up a litter control plan to assess the scale of the litter problem and carry out litter patrols on a regular basis.
  • If litter is a problem around your premises contact Waste Management to discuss how to control litter or the possibility of sponsoring a bin in your area.
  • Encourage customers to dispose of litter responsibly using posters inside the premises and on bins.
  • Provide bins for cigarette stubs in smoking areas.
  • Arrange for the area around your premises to be cleared of litter and fouling on a regular basis, and always at the close of business.
  • If you are a mobile trader you will need to provide a suitable waste bin and take your waste away with you for proper disposal.
  • Cut down the use of promotional leaflets and publicity and only hand flyers directly to the public do not put on vehicle windscreens. Ensure a litter bin is near to the distribution point and clear discarded flyers afterwards.
  • Provide clean and accessible toilet facilities for customers to use.
  • Challenge those who foul the area around your premises.

Be aware that the Council issues fixed penalty fines for offences such as litter under the provisions of the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005.

Light Pollution Control

Outdoor artificial lighting is used for a number of reasons, including work, recreation, security, safety, advertising, display and to create a pleasant atmosphere where people gather socially. As many of the premises operating under the Licensing Act will use outdoor lighting late at night, it is important to ensure that it does not become a nuisance to others. Light ‘spilling over’ onto other property can case annoyance, distraction and discomfort and may cause driving problems by glaring into drivers’ eyes or competing with signs and other traffic signals.

The design of larger outdoor lighting installation will require advice from a specialist lighting engineer, but you can control even the smallest outdoor installation by:

  • Not ‘over-lighting’ an area – use lighting with an appropriate output for the required purpose.
  • Take particular care when selecting tungsten or halogen lighting.
  • Siting the lighting carefully and aiming the beam away from sensitive premises and transport systems.
  • Take advantage of natural screening and barriers.
  • Using high mounting positions and directing light downwards, rather than mounting it low and using horizontal light beams.
  • Using properly designed screens, baffles, hoods and louvers on lights to control the direction of the light beam.
  • Turning off lighting when not required. If using timed automatic cut-off switches. Bear in mind the possible safety issues this may create.
  • Ensuring lights activated by sensors are properly set and used appropriately – i.e. the light is not repeatedly switching on and off, as this itself may cause annoyance.

Note you may wish to provide additional security lighting to poorly lit areas around your premises in order to improve safety and deter crime. You are encouraged to do so as this is a key aim of the Licensing Act – just take care that the lighting does not cause nuisance to others.

For Further Guidance Contact

You can contact Regulatory Services by emailing ep@gravesham.gov.uk or phoning 01474 337334.

Alternatively you can write to:

Regulatory Services - Gravesham Borough Council
Civic Centre
Windmill Street
DA11 1AU

Useful Contacts and References

Department of Culture Media and Sport website, telephone 0207 2116200

The Institute of Lighting Engineers website for Guidance Notes for the Reduction of Light Pollution, telephone 01788 576492

The Association of Noise Consultants trade association for acoustic, noise & vibration consultancy practices in the UK. Telephone 01763 852958

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs for Voluntary Code of Practice for the Fast Food Industry Control of Odour and Noise from Commercial Kitchen Exhaust Systems, telephone 08459 335577

Institute of Acoustics for Good Practice Guide on the Control of Noise from Pubs and Clubs, telephone 01727 848195

British Beer and Pub Association for Noise Control, Effective Management of Noise from Licensed Premises, telephone 0207 6279191

Chartered Institute of Building Services Engineers for a Guide on the Limitations of the Obtrusive Effects of Obtrusive Light from Outdoor Lighting Installations, telephone 0208 6755211