The Licensing Act, which is expected to come into effect in 2004, sweeps away the six existing licensing regimes and makes the council responsible for a single integrated scheme for licensing premises which sell alcohol, provide entertainment to the public or provide refreshment late at night.
Chair of Bexley's community safety partnership and council leader, Chris Ball says: 'There is a huge task ahead of us. The transition from the existing system to the new will see up to 700 applications for licensed premises and 1,400 personal license applications having to be processed during a six to 10 month transitional period.
'Detailed planning is underway for this and Council officers are working closely with the police and other agencies to make sure it is all properly coordinated and that enforcement activity will be effective, particularly in relation to under-age sales, fire safety and noise.'
Police superintendent John Powell says: 'This is a golden opportunity to health check the borough's licensing trade against local demand, as well as take into account potential policing issues associated with the sale and consumption of alcohol. We welcome the opportunity this legislation offers to work with the council in creating a policable environment that is both vibrant and law-abiding.'
Bexley will be required to consult a range of organisations on a Statement of Licensing Policy, which set out how it intends to promote the four new licensing objectives introduced by the Act.
These are the prevention of crime and disorder; the promotion of public safety; the prevention of public nuisance and the protection of children from harm.
An initial survey of all people in Bexley known to hold licenses for activities covered by the new act has just been launched. This is to raise awareness of the new licensing laws and to establish the degree to which applications for extended opening hours can be expected in Bexley.