The Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) has warned fuel retailers that proposals to overhaul the Licensing Act

threaten their rights and are ’poorly conceived’.

The Home Office yesterday unvieled the plans which include a ban on the below cost sale of alcohol and new powers for local authorities.

James Lowman, ACS chief executive, said: "ACS is keen to play a constructive role in this consultation. We will be strongly advising ministers that these proposals go far beyond a ‘rebalancing’ of the Act and instead would hand absolute power to local authorities, residents groups and police while businesses would lose even basic rights of appeal.

"Ministers are ignoring the fact that councils, police and residents can make bad decisions, or that they may act on prejudices rather than evidence. Safeguards for business are vital, and are required to ensure effective partnership based solutions to community problems can be achieved.

"Ministers have not shown how the proposals would lead to better results than those already seen in communities across the country. The proposed six week window for consultation is not enough time to take a proper look at the evidence. Ministers are heading at breakneck speed to a range of policies that are poorly conceived and massively burdensome on thousands of responsible community businesses."

Meanwhile, fuel retailers have been urged to respond to the Home Office before the September 8 deadline. Robert Botkai, who heads the licensing and commercial property team at law firm Winckworth Sherwood, said: "The proposals, if enacted, will have very serious repercussions for licence holders and for those seeking to apply for licences in the future."

According to Botkai, who estimates that there are more than 2,000 forecourt stores licensed to sell alcohol in the UK, the main concern is that retailers will not get a fair hearing for new licence applications or for changes to existing licences. There is also the issue that the new proposals aim to remove part of the appeal process.

He added: "Fuel retailers only have August to respond to what is a very very important issue to the sector. This is all too fast and it’s not been thought through. It’s unfair and it needs to be reigned in."

Botkai said retailers could contact Winckworth Sherwood regarding responses to the Home Office proposals.