WITH the application deadline for new drinks licences just nine weeks away Chard licensees are proving top of the class.

Under new Government regulations any person or business wishing to serve alcohol must apply to South Somerset District Council for a new licence by August 5.

The district council's principal licensing officer, Julia Bradburn, said the speedy response from local licensees was bucking the district trend.

"Chard is doing well," she said. "I've been impressed because we've received lots of premises and personal licence applications."

The Happy Return, The Ship Inn and The Cerdic, all in Chard, will be among the recipients of the first batch of new licences due to be issued in the coming week.