Councils are calling for the power to use public health concerns to curb the number of premises selling alcohol.
A new survey by the Local Government Association (LGA) found the majority (90%) of public health chiefs want to include a public health objective in the Licensing Act in order to limit the saturation of premises selling alcohol.
At the moment, councils cannot act on expert health-related evidence when considering licensing applications. The LGA said a public health criteria within the Licensing Act would help councils protect local communities from the spread of alcohol outlets and reduce NHS costs.
Cllr Tony Page, Licensing spokesman on the LGA’s Safer and Stronger Communities Board, said: ‘Obviously councils are not seeking powers to refuse every application - the social benefits of moderate drinking are well documented - but it would certainly allow them to take a more balanced view in line with their other priorities such as creating vibrant and safe town centres and protecting people from harm.
‘Councils can listen to health evidence, but are powerless to refuse, new licences on public health grounds. Then after granting permission, they will have less money to spend on prevention schemes such as tackling alcohol misuse.’
The survey also found public health directors believe access to NHS and crime data would help them do their jobs more effectively by developing ‘alcohol harm maps’ to identify areas of concern.