Examining local processes when applying a cumulative impact policy to address harms of alcohol outlet density

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Abstract

One approach to addressing the negative health and social harms of excessive drinking has been to attempt to limit alcohol availability in areas of high outlet density. The Licensing Act (2003) enables English local authorities the power to implement a Cumulative Impact Policy (CIP) in order to tackle alcohol challenges. More than 100 English local authorities have implemented a CIP in one or more designated areas. We examined local licence decision-making in the context of implementing CIPs. Specifically, we explored the activities involved in alcohol licensing in one London local authority in order to explicate how local decision-making processes regarding alcohol outlet density occur. Institutional ethnographic research revealed that CIPs were contested on multiple grounds within the statutory licensing process of a local authority with this policy in place. CIPs are an example of multi-level governance in which national and local interests, legal powers and alcohol licensing priorities interface. Public health priorities can be advanced in the delivery of CIPs, but those priorities can at times be diluted by those of other stakeholders, both public sector and commercial.

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