FESTIVE celebrations will be cut short in East Lothian this Christmas after licensing chiefs scrapped a fortnight of late-night openings for pubs and clubs.

The traditional 2am extension granted by East Lothian Council’s licensing board for a fortnight each Christmas has been slashed to just three days over Christmas and two at New Year.

The changes, which were recommended by the council’s licensing forum, will see the traditional granting of 2am last calls allowed on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Boxing Day, Hogmanay and New Year’s Day only.

Last year, in line with the council’s previous policy, drinking establishments were allowed a 2am extension from December 15 to January 3.

In recommending the change to the board’s licensing policy, which was under review, East Lothian Licensing Forum said: “It has been observed locally that the number of premises that took advantage of the extension beyond these proposed main holiday dates was considered to be quite small.”

Members of the forum attended a joint meeting with the licensing board in Haddington last month where they took the board to task for ignoring another recommendation calling for the board’s new policy to continue its previous stance that the county had an overprovision of off-sales outlets.

The forum is a statutory body which every board has to consult with and represents a community voice on licensing operations. Members are drawn from local residents, licensees, health professionals and police.

The board, which approved its new revised licensing policy for the next five years at a meeting earlier in the morning, scrapped the overprovision statement.

Forum member Elizabeth Oldcorn said the decision was “disappointing” and against the views of the forum and the NHS, which she represents on it.

She said: “I think the board has done itself a disservice.”

And concerns were raised that not having an overprovision statement – which allows the board to reject licence applications from new premises on the argument an area already has enough premises – left it vulnerable.

Forum convenor George Hood warned: “I think if you do not have an overprovision statement you will find it very difficult not to grant a licence.”

The board argued that, while there were “significant health and crime problems in our communities that should not be ignored” and “access to alcohol is a key issue”, it did not believe the harm caused by alcohol in East Lothian was a “direct and sole consequence of the number of premises”.

Councillor Jane Henderson, board member, said: “We have to be absolutely certain about the causal link.”

Rudi Fruzynski, the board’s licensing standards officer, said that one of the issues was a lack of guidance from the Scottish Government as to what qualified as overprovision.

He said: “There has not been clear guidance from the Government’s policy unit.

“It does not give us the information needed to put a policy in place with confidence it will not be challenged.”