Licensing laws could hit village halls

NEW licensing laws for village halls could have a "disastrous effect" on rural communities, countryside campaigners have warned.Hundreds of volunteers running halls are grappling with complex paperwork to meet the new regulations under the Licensing Act 2003 while administration costs are rising.

NEW licensing laws for village halls could have a "disastrous effect" on rural communities, countryside campaigners have warned.

Hundreds of volunteers running halls are grappling with complex paperwork to meet the new regulations under the Licensing Act 2003 while administration costs are rising.

The changes limit the number of temporary licences that can be granted for events where alcohol is served each year or require halls to pay extra for full licences.

There are fears village halls could stop hosting events because of the regulations, or even be forced to close.


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Liz Mort, eastern region director of the Countryside Alliance, said: "Many villages rely on their village halls as meeting places – effectively restricting access to them would have a disastrous effect on many struggling communities.

"It seems that the Government is determined to undermine traditional rural communities, this time by legislating to restrict their social lives.

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"The Government has made a commitment that all policies are rural proofed to assess their effects on rural communities.

"If this policy were to be rural proofed, it would fail, and rightly so."

She added: "The Countryside Alliance calls on Government to consult the rural community before it progresses.

"It must also realise that legislation such as this, which is designed to tackle mainly urban problems such as binge drinking, is adversely affecting rural communities."

Under the new regulations, the number of temporary licences that can be obtained for events where alcohol is served is restricted to 12 a year.

Otherwise, village halls must apply for a full premises licence and also a personal licence, with a named licensee.

The initial cost will be around £190 followed by an annual fee of £180. At present, most halls pay £30 for a five-year licence.

David Remy, management committee secretary for Wenhaston Village Hall, near Halesworth, said: "It's a long drawn-out process and I think a lot of village halls are not going to bother with it.

"I have been sorting out a full licence for the village hall and I've had to send off about eight different notifications to various places – it's a costly process and a bit of a rigmarole."

A spokesperson for the Department of Culture, Media and Sport said: "Licensing reform will benefit village halls by cutting form-filling and encouraging the use of halls for activities that, under the current system, require separate licences and extra costs.

"Under the reforms, every village and community hall in England and Wales will be exempt from all fees associated with a licence for regulated entertainment.

"We have worked closely with organisations such as Action on Communities in Rural England on licensing reform and the newly-formed independent Fees Review Panel will monitor the impact of the reform on village halls."

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