Venue: Meeting Room 1, Abbey House, Abbey Close, Abingdon, OX14 3JE
Contact: Emily Barry, Democratic Services Officer 07717272442
Election of a chair
To elect a chair for this hearing.
A motion, moved and seconded, to elect Councillor Ron Batstone as chair of the panel was carried on being put to the vote.
RESOLVED: that Councillor Ron Batstone be elected as chair of the panel.
Declarations of interest
To receive any declarations of disclosable pecuniary interests and any conflicts of interest in respect of items on the agenda for this meeting.
There were no declarations of interest.
To note the procedure for the meeting (attached).
The chair confirmed that all parties present understood the procedure.
To consider the report of the Head of Legal and Democratic.
The chair began by noting the preliminary submission presented in written submissions received by the Council on 30 November 2023 which had been circulated to members of the panel in advance of the meeting.
1. The Applicant argued that:
(a) Paragraph 5.5 of the Council’s licensing policy provides that new applications will be subject to a 28-day consultation. Paragraph 5.20 provides that consent for a licence will automatically be granted where no objections are received. The Officer’ Report noted that the Panel will not permit late evidence unless all parties agree.
(b) Mr Cockhill’s evidence (objecting to the application on highways grounds) was the only objection and was submitted after the consultation had closed. The Council should, therefore, not take account of Mr Cockhill’s submission and should, in effect, determine the application as if there were no objections.
(c) Further or in the alternative, Mr Cockhill’s submission was generic and did not relate specifically to the Premises. Mr Cockhill’s submission should, therefore, be discounted on that basis.
In oral argument, the Applicants advanced the argument that the policy should be treated as a “hard and fast rule”. This is wrong in law. As successive courts have made clear, a public authority is not permitted to treat policy or guidance as a “direction” [see, for example, Laker Airways v Department of Trade  1 QB 643, CA; Belfast City Council v Miss Behavin’ Ltd  UKHL 19].
The panel adjourned to discuss the preliminary point made by the applicants. The panel considered its relevant legal duties as follows:
a) To follow its stated policy unless material considerations indicate otherwise;
b) To refrain from improperly fettering its discretion;
c) To take all material considerations into account; and
d) To ensure the process was fair.
The panel was grateful for the applicant’s confirmation in oral argument that it was not materially prejudiced by the late provision of Mr Cockhill’s evidence.
The panel therefore determined to consider Mr Cockhill’s submission for the following reasons:
a) The panel was required not to fetter its discretion. It was, therefore required to consider the issue in the round. The panel was also aware of its duty to ensure a fair hearing. Mr Cockhill was a highways expert speaking on behalf of the Local Highways Authority. For this reason, his submission was likely to be material.
b) The generic nature of Mr Cockhill’s submission, and the fact that it was not supported by evidence from local objectors was a matter which might reduce the weight placed on the submission, but it did not make it immaterial. The weight placed on Mr Cockhill’s submission was a matter for the panel and was best decided when considering all of the relevant issues in the round.
c) The applicants accepted that it was not materially prejudiced by the late provision of Mr Cockhill’s submission. It could, therefore, be considered without prejudicing the fairness of the hearing.
The panel reconvened and conveyed their decision before moving on to consider the applications for ... view the full minutes text for item 16.