Manchester City Council: Security and licensing

Following the tragic Manchester Arena terror attack in 2017, at which 22 people lost their lives, Manchester City Council proactively took steps to embed the principles of Martyn’s Law within the existing licensing framework to enhance and promote public safety in places and spaces where licensable activities take place in Manchester.

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The challenge

Martyn’s Law is a proposed piece of legislation that aims to ensure that security preparedness is delivered consistently across the UK. Martyn’s Law is likely to consist of five requirements:

  1. A requirement that spaces and places to which the public have access engage with freely available counter-terrorism advice and training.
  2. A requirement for those places to conduct vulnerability assessments of their operating places and spaces.
  3. A requirement for those places to mitigate the risks created by the vulnerabilities.
  4. A requirement for those places to have a counter-terrorism plan.
  5. A requirement for local authorities to plan for the threat of terrorism.

We expect that the Bill containing the details of Martyn’s Law will be published in the spring and will then be taken forward as soon as parliamentary time allows.

The solution

Manchester council successfully consulted on updating its model licensing conditions to incorporate measures that give effect to Martyn’s Law in licensed places and spaces. These conditions stipulate that:

  • Certain members of staff must have completed Action Counter Terrorism (ACT) Awareness e-learning training.
  • Designated Premises Supervisors must have attended a counter-terrorism awareness training session.
  • There must be a documented security assessment, which must incorporate counter terrorism measures for the premises.
  • Within 28 days of the grant or variation of the licence, the premises licence holder shall evaluate any risks and take prompt steps to reduce the risk as far as is reasonably practicable.
  • The premises must have a documented security plan, which sets out counter measures to be implemented in response to a terrorist attack.

These conditions will now be added to new licence applications where appropriate and proportionate. However, where licences have already been granted, conditions can only be attached through a minor or full variation either voluntarily or, where representations are received, imposed following a hearing or a licence review where problems have arisen at a licensed premises. To encourage premises that already have a licence to adopt these conditions voluntarily, Manchester plans to establish a voluntary scheme to recognise good practice by licensed premises.

Manchester also has a city centre security board, a multi-agency partnership bringing together various council departments including licensing and community safety teams, the police, counter terror police, and the highway authority, amongst others. This forum assists with identifying sites of vulnerability across the city centre and what mitigations should be in place. This has helped to inform the council’s approach to issuing licences under the Licensing Act 2003, but also in other areas of licensing. For example, Manchester’s pavement licensing policy contains clear requirements for premises to have documented security plans, incorporating the principles of ‘Guide’, Shelter’ and ‘Communicate’ and setting out counter measures to be implemented in response to a terrorist attack.

The impact

The response to Manchester’s adoption of the principles behind Martyn’s law has been incredibly positive. Many businesses have adopted the measures on a voluntary basis, and more than 1,000 people and 500 venues have now taken part in the Action Counter Terrorism (ACT) training which aims to equip staff across the city with skills to identify and mitigate potential risks and respond in the event of a terror attack. There has also been several positive media releases about the council’s work on this issue, which has helped to raise further awareness.

Lessons learned

It is important to be familiar with the different guidance to support councils’ work on this issue. In particular, the Protect UK website contains lots of useful information such as a risk management template. There is also a useful chapter on counter terrorism in the Purple Guide.

Manchester’s work on Martyn’s Law has led to improved engagement with venues, between council departments, and with partner agencies, across a range of safety and security matters. However, this increased collaboration can bring some challenges with costs and time.

Engagement with counter terrorism police is also key, as they can assist with  identifying high profile areas, risks and whether there is a need for mitigation, as well as helping with emergency planning.


Fraser Swift, Principal Licensing Officer, Manchester City Council, [email protected]