The Albert Hall, the occupier and operator of the Royal Albert Hall in London (the Hall), applied under s 34a of the Licensing Act 2003 for a variation of its premises licence. It advertised its application in a local newspaper and by placing notices outside the Hall. The relevant licensing authority (Westminster) sent letters to residents of certain premises in the ‘immediate vicinity’ of the Hall, notifying them of the application. Letters were not sent to any of the residents of a premises known as ‘Albert Court’, part of which fell within the immediate vicinity of the Hall. After the deadline date for making representations had passed, Westminster received a number of individual representations from residents of Albert Court. Westminster declined to consider the representations, describing them as ‘late’. Its view was that s 35b of the 2003 Act required it to take that stance. Shortly thereafter, Westminster granted the application. The Albert Court Residents’ Association and a number of other parties (the claimants) applied for judicial review of that decision. The judge held that Westminster’s decision to refuse to consider the representations had been lawful, but that its decision to grant the variation of the licence was unlawful because it had failed to fulfil the legitimate expectation of the residents of Albert Court that they would be sent a notice of the application. The Albert Hall and Westminster appealed. The Albert Hall submitted (i) that the judge had been wrong to find that the claimants had had any legitimate expectation that they would be notified of its licensing application, and (ii) the relief proposed by the claimants was inconsistent with the provisions of the 2003 Act, in particular s 35(2), (5) and (6), and the Licensing Act 2003 (Premises licences and club premises certificates) Regulations 2005, SI 2005/42. Westminster submitted that any failure by it to satisfy any such legitimate expectation could not affect its duty to grant the Albert Hall’s application.
Held: Appeal allowed
Any failure by a licensing authority to act in relation to its extra-statutory notifications could not give rise to any right to interfere with the performance of its statutory duties. Neither the 2003 Act nor the Regulations imposed any duty on a licensing authority to advertise an application or to take any steps to notify anyone affected by it that it had been made. The sole duty to advertise and to give notice of an application was placed on the person making the application. It followed that, in the instant case, where the representations sent by the Albert Court residents were not ‘relevant representations’ as defined in s 35(5) of the 2003 Act, on the basis that the requirements under s 35(6) had not been fulfilled, and even assuming that Westminster had acted irrationally or was in breach of its public law duties by not having sent letters of the relevant licensing application to the Albert Court residents, Westminster was under the duty imposed by s 35(2) to grant the application, and the Albert Hall had a right, enforceable at public law, to the grant of the application. The court could not grant any relief that had the effect of preventing Westminster from complying with its statutory duty or depriving the Albert Hall of its public law right to the grant of the variation of its licence for which it had made a valid application. Accordingly, the order made by the judge would be set aside.