Licensing (Scotland) Act 2005 section 142: guidance for Licensing Boards

Guidance on section 142 of the Licensing (Scotland) Act 2005 for Licensing Boards and local authorities.

5. Overprovision


5.1 This chapter provides information to assist Licensing Boards to make a pro-active assessment of the overprovision of licenced premises in their licensing authority area.

5.2 Licensing Boards have two separate but directly linked responsibilities in relation to overprovision. Each Licensing Board is required to include a statement as to overprovision in its authority area within the Board's statement of licensing policy (section 7 of the 2005 Act refers) and each Board also needs to consider overprovision when determining a premises licence or premises licence variation application (see chapter 8 Premises Licences).

5.3 There have been a number of amendments made to section 7 since its commencement. The Alcohol etc. (Scotland) Act 2010 and the Police and Fire Reform (Scotland) Act 2012 made changes to the to the list of persons a Licensing Board must consult when considering whether there is overprovision (as set out at section 7(1)) in any locality). The "relevant Health Board" was added to the list of consultees and a textual amendment was made to the reference to Chief constable.

5.4 The Air Weapons and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2015 made a number of amendments to section 7. Some were technical whilst others were more substantive. To assist Boards in considering the wider scope of the protecting and improving health licensing objective, section 7 was amended to enable Boards to consider the availability of alcohol across their whole geographic area. Further amendments clarified that increased capacity can be considered separately from an increase in the number of licensed premises in terms of overprovision and that opening hours should also be considered.

5.5 Currently, section 7 of the 2005 Act requires a Licensing Board to include in its statement of licensing policy, a statement as to the extent to which the Board considers there to be an overprovision of (a) licensed premises, or (b) licensed premises of a particular description, in any locality within the Board's area, and in doing so, the Board may determine that the whole of the Board's area is a locality.

5.6 An overprovision assessment must be evidenced base. It is a matter for each Licensing Board to determine what their overprovision policy will be and how the evidence it has ingathered will be interpreted and weighted. When undertaking this work Licensing Boards should be mindful of the five licensing objectives: preventing crime and disorder; securing public safety; preventing public nuisance; protecting and improving public health; and protecting children and young persons from harm. Licensing Boards Licensing Board should ensure the approach to ingathering, weighing and interpreting evidence, and consultation responses is robust, all of the relevant evidence before them is taken into account, and the rationale for regarding/disregarding that evidence in developing Licensing Policy Statements (LPS) is clearly set out.

5.7 It is also important that Licensing Boards consult widely on a draft overprovision assessment and carefully consider the views expressed by consultees prior to finalising an overprovision assessment for the Licensing Board area.

Purpose of overprovision

5.8 The requirement to produce an overprovision assessment, and note this in the statement of licensing policy, is designed to:

  • enable Licensing Boards to take account of changes since the publication of their previous statement of licensing policy and any subsequent supplementary statement of licensing policies which may have been issued.
  • improve public and trade confidence in the licensing system by setting out clearly the grounds on which overprovision should be determined.
  • recognise that halting the growth of licensed premises in localities is not intended to restrict trade but may be required to preserve public order, protect the amenity of local communities and mitigate the adverse health effects of increased alcohol consumption.
  • provide potential entrants to the market with a clear signal that they may incur abortive costs if they intend to apply for a licence in a locality which a Licensing Board has declared to have reached overprovision.

Which licensed premises are to be included?

5.9 Section 7 provides that premises which have only an occasional licence are to be left out of the assessment of overprovision. Additionally, section 125 of the 2005 Act provides that section 7 does not apply "in relation to premises which are used wholly or mainly for the purposes of any club of such description as may be prescribed". Members clubs are a category of club which falls within Regulation 2 of the Licensing (Clubs) Scotland Regulations 2007 (2007/76). All other licensed premises should be included when considering whether there is overprovision of licenced premises generally or licensed premises of a particular description.

5.10 Licensed premises of a particular description may be determined in terms of their style of operation. For example Scottish Borders Licensing Board states in the overprovision section of its statement of licensing policy that:

  • "The number of late night hour entertainment premises (after 1am) within Scottish Boarders is currently four. The Board is of the view that any increase beyond that number could be overprovision"

Determining Localities

5.11 It is for each Licensing Board to determine the localities within the Licensing Board's area for the purposes of the 2005 Act. This flexibility allows Licensing Boards to reflect the different circumstances in different geographical areas throughout the country, for example, a locality in a rural area might be larger than a locality in an urban area. As mentioned above, Licensing Boards can determine that the whole of the Licensing Board's area is a single locality.

5.12 The choice of locality must, however it is done, be rational, capable of justification and be consistent across the Licensing Board area. It is expected that, in the interests of openness and transparency, Licensing Boards set out the reasons for their decision making in arriving at their locality choices (e.g. as part of the consultation on a Licensing Board's draft overprovision assessment) . For example,

  • North Ayrshire Licensing Board's statement of licensing policy states: "The Board's Overprovision Policy covers its whole area, although the Board has determined that there are 6 'Localities' in its area (coinciding with the 6 'Localities' used by the North Ayrshire Community Planning Partnership (CPP).

"These areas contain a total of 38 Intermediate Zones ("IZs"). IZs are the areas commonly used to gather a wide range of government statistics."

  • West Dunbartonshire's statement of licensing policy states:"In its assessment of overprovision, the West Dunbartonshire Licensing Board has continued its established approach of utilising the Scottish Neighbourhood Statistics intermediate data zone (IDZ) geographies as the localities for this purpose. "The West Dunbartonshire area can be broken up in to 18 distinct IDZ localities."

5.13 City of Glasgow Licensing Board demonstrated best practice in relation to gathering local views when consulting on proposed localities in relation to its overprovision assessment. The Licensing Board indicated, through its website, that it intended to undertake visits to the proposed overprovision localities to speak directly to local residents and owners and staff of licensed premises in these areas to hear views on the impact of higher concentrations of licensed premises and to gauge whether there is support at a local level for including the area as an overprovision locality in the finalised LPS.

Matters to be considered in determining if there is overprovision

5.14 In determining whether or not overprovision exists, section 7 provides for the matters a Licensing Board needs to consider:

  • must have regard to the number and capacity of licensed premises in the locality
  • must consult
    • the chief constable
    • the relevant health board
    • such persons as appear to the Board to be representative of the interests of (i) holders of premises licences in respect of premises within the locality, (ii) persons resident in the locality, and- such other persons as the Board thinks fit.
  • may have regard to such other matters as the Board thinks fit including, in particular, the licensed hours of licensed premises in the locality.

Number and capacity of licensed premises

Number of licensed premises

5.15 The number of licensed premises impacts on the availability of alcohol and as many Licensing Boards recognise, the type of licensed premises is also of relevance. For example, a large supermarket and a small corner shop will each count as one licensed premises. The amount of alcohol sold by each premise will be different and the potential harms associated with the amount of alcohol sold will also be substantially different. A locality with only licensed restaurants is likely to sell less alcohol than a locality with only vertical drinking establishments. The harms associated with licensed restaurants will be less than the harms associated with vertical drinking establishments.

5.16 As discussed at Chapter 3 the 2005 Act places a duty on Licensing Boards to keep a licensing register and this can be used by Licensing Boards to determine the number of premises licensed for:

  • the sale of alcohol for consumption on the premises;
  • the sale of alcohol for consumption off the premises; and
  • the sale of alcohol both on and off the premises.

Capacity of licensed premises

5.17 In the context of the 2005 Act and as set out at section 147, capacity –

  • in relation to licensed premises (or any part of such premises) on which alcohol is sold for consumption on the premises (or, as the case may be, that part), the maximum number of customers which can be accommodated in the premises (or, as the case may be, that part) at any one time, and
  • in relation to licensed premises (or any part of such premises) on which alcohol is sold for consumption off the premises (or, as the case may be, that part), the amount of space in the premises (or, as the case may be, that part) given over to the display of alcohol for sale.


5.18 Many Licensing Boards comment in their overprovision assessments that they seek input from their local authority Building Standards Officers regarding capacity matters. For calculating the capacity for on-sales, Licensing Boards may wish to have regard to the parts of the Technical Handbook issued in support of the Buildings (Scotland) Regulations 2004 which relate to occupancy capacity and the number of licensed hours the premises is open. The Building Standards pages on the Scottish Government website Building standards - ( provides information on buildings regulations and the associated technical guidance.


5.19 For calculating the capacity for off-sales, Licensing Boards should have regard to the Premises License (Scotland) Regulations 2007 (SSI 2007 No. 252) and regulation 5 which makes provision as to the layout plan.

5.20 In its statement of licensing policy, Stirling Licensing Board states:

  • "Assessing the capacity of licensed premises is important under the Act. This is, in part, due to the fact that capacity of premises will be taken into account in assessing overprovision.
  • "On sales
    The Board considers that it is very important for licence holders to have a sound knowledge of the safe capacity of their premises. Capacity for on sales premises should be presented to the Board in patron numbers. The capacity should be worked out using the formula used by Building Standards, this formula does not take into account the fixtures and fitting of the premises.
    "This is particularly so where the premises are large, or where they include entertainment such as live music, dances and discos. The Board expects, in respect of these types of premises, that there should be suitable capacity control measures in place. These may include stewarding, door number clickers or issuing of tickets.
  • "Off sales

Again, the Board considers that it is very important for licence holders to have a sound knowledge of the capacity of their premises. Capacity for off sales premises should be presented to the Board in meters squared".


5.21 As set out at Chapter 4 statements of licensing policy, Licensing Boards are encouraged to consult widely within their respective areas on both their statement of licensing policy and it is equally import ant for Licensing Boards to consult widely on their overprovision assessment. Licensing Boards may wish to consider carrying out these two consultations simultaneously. For example, Edinburgh Licensing Board published 2 consultations and commented on their web page:

  • "The Edinburgh Licensing Board is consulting on the terms of its draft statement of licensing policy, having carried out an informal consultation earlier in the year. As part of this process, the Board is also consulting on its assessment of localities in the Board's area which show characteristics of overprovision of licensed premises. These two consultations are being carried out in tandem.
  • "Details of the individual localities, and the basis upon which they've been considered, is set out in the supporting documentation provided with this consultation".

5.22 Chapter 6 Local Licensing Forums (LLFs) sets out the important role a LLF has to play in the alcohol licensing regime. In terms of other persons a Licensing Board may wish to consult, it is encouraging to note that LLFs and third sector organisations providing treatment services for alcohol harm within their locality, are as a matter of course being invited by many Licensing Boards to offer their views. This is an approach the Scottish Government strongly supports.

5.23 For example in its statement of licensing policy under the heading of "Development of the Pro-Active Assessment of Overprovision", Glasgow City Licensing Board comment:

  • "In particular, the Licensing Board had regard to a report from the Local Licensing Forum with evidence and recommendations as to localities where the Forum considered there to be overprovision of licensed premises or licensed premises of a particular description. A copy of the report approved by the Local Licensing Forum, together with the supporting evidence gathered, is available at:

5.24 As regards consultation on localities in relation to its overprovision assessment, Inverclyde Licensing Board commented in its statement of licensing policy:

  • "As the determination of "localities" is largely a matter for the Board, local knowledge plays a significant part in such determinations. The Board has had extensive consultations with Inverclyde Licensing Forum, who have in turn consulted with Community Councils, premises licence holders, the Inverclyde Alcohol and Drug Partnership, the NHS, Police Scotland, Inverclyde Community Health and Care Partnership and local residents".

5.25 In preparing their statement of licensing policy and overprovision assessment, Dumfries and Galloway Licensing Boards had 2 periods of consultation which included 2 public meetings and a Working Group was also set up to discuss Overprovision. This Group met several times and comprised of the following members: Scottish Fire and Rescue Service; Police Scotland; Alcohol and Drug Partnership (NHS) and Dumfries and Galloway Council.

Other matters

5.26 A Licensing Board's consideration of overprovision need not be confined to only considering numbers and capacity but could take account of other factors too. Licensing Boards have considerable discretion in this area.

5.27 In considering the statutory definition of 'capacity', it is accepted that there are other ways of considering in a wider sense what the capacity of a premises is. While the 2005 Act does not permit any alternative definition of capacity to be used, Licensing Boards are encouraged to consider under other matters whether, for example, a relevant factor to be considered alongside capacity of premises would be the ability for stock to be resupplied quickly. In other words, a premises which was able to maintain large stock levels but only had a relatively small area for displaying stock may then suggest a small capacity while actually they are capable of significant sales volumes.

5.28 Other matters could be such things as inequalities; the proximity of specific types of premises such as facilities for vulnerable adults with problematic alcohol use; mental health services; hospitals; schools/nurseries; sports facilities; gambling facilities. Other considerations could also include concerns regarding people visiting the locality from other areas.

5.29 In particular, inequalities is an important consideration for Licensing Boards in relation to overprovision. There is a stark inequalities gradient to alcohol harm and a growing awareness that the impact of harmful drinking and alcohol dependence is much greater for those experiencing high levels of deprivation. For example, people living in our most deprived communities are over seven times more likely to die or are more than eight times more likely to be admitted to hospital due to alcohol use than those in our least deprived communities (Monitoring and Evaluating Scotland's Alcohol Strategy: Monitoring Report 2019: NHS Health Scotland; 2019). Similarly, areas of high deprivation can have extremely high rates of alcohol-related fires and crime rates, and it can often be individuals other than the drinker who feel the effects of alcohol use, including children, family, friends, colleagues and those working in frontline services such as the Police and Health Service.

5.30 Research examining the association between the density of alcohol outlets and neighbourhood-level income deprivation in Scotland has also found that there are 40% more licensed premises in the most deprived areas of Scotland than in the least deprived (BMC Public Health 2015 Research article "A cross-sectional analysis of the relationship between tobacco and alcohol outlet density and neighbourhood deprivation" N.K. Shortt et al). By taking account of evidence on inequalities, Licensing Boards can meaningfully consider how different communities are impacted differently by alcohol, and use this to formulate their policy.

Assessing overprovision

5.31 There are a number of underlying principles that the Licensing Board should take into account as they approach the development of their statement of overprovision:

  • Licensing Boards should use alcohol-harm information (or potential alcohol-harm information) to identify localities and then proceed to consider the number, type and capacity of premises in those areas.
  • It is the potential for undesirable consequences which is intended to be addressed through overprovision assessments as a requirement within the 2005 Act. This can be thought of as the cumulative effect of more and more licences being granted in a locality and what this means in respect of the effect on life in that area. It is the cumulative effect rather than the actions of any single operator that is key.
  • If a Licensing Board considers there is at least potential for, or a reasonable basis for, concluding that there will be a risk of adverse impact on the objectives (should more premises licences be granted), it is entitled to come to the view that there is a state of overprovision.
  • Consideration should be given as to whether aggregate information and evidence from a number of sources demonstrates a link between the availability of alcohol in an area and alcohol-related harm.
  • To demonstrate a "dependable causal link", the proof of the link must be on a balance of probabilities. What this means in practice is that based on the evidence of harm in a locality, it is more likely than not that alcohol availability is a cause, or that increasing the availability of alcohol in that area will increase that harm.
  • There is no simple numerical formula for pinpointing the threshold between provision and overprovision. Determining overprovision involves the application of reason and judgement in the interests of the community.



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