Controversial licence granted

COUNCILLORS have vowed to continue opposing a licensing application after the third shop in a row of five was given permission to sell alcohol.

The application was submitted by Muhammed Ismail, who owns Premier Store, seeking permission to sell alcohol from 7am to 11pm Monday to Saturday and from 8am until 11pm on Sunday. This meant it would be selling drink an hour later than the two neighbouring shops.

But, when police did not object to alcohol sales finishing at 10pm the application was amended and permission was granted.

Councillor Ann McAllister (Con, Rastrick), who objected to the application, said it was undesirable to have three licensed to sell alcohol along the row in Highfield Road.

“The Safer and Stronger Scrutiny Panel at its meeting on March 22, received a report from Derek Benn, Community Safety Manager, which reviewed the Council’s Alcohol Strategy and the issue of density was raised.

“There was general agreement that a situation (like this one) where three out of five shops on a small arcade of shops in a residential area licensed to sell alcohol was undesirable.

“We are aware that Wealdon District Council is/was reviewing its Licensing Policy for this very reason.

“It is therefore our intention to pursue this as part of the review of the Council’s Alcohol Strategy and would welcome residents’ views.”

The council received more than 130 objections and a petition, signed by more than 600 people, on the grounds of the prevention of crime and disorder, public safety, prevention of public nuisance and the protecting of children from harm.

Many were concerned about the area becoming a gathering place for youths making it intimidating for customers and residents.

“CCTV is fine, but it records what goes on, it doesn’t stop it. We have done a lot of work on the Field Lane estate trying to eradicate anti-social behaviour. I recognise the concession but the objection still stands,” said Coun McAllister.

Resident Jill Hill said: “You do feel threatened. Youths are sitting there with cans of beer - why do we need a third shop selling alcohol?”

Another resident, Kevin Holgate, said he has had to ask drinking youths to quieten down so his family could sleep.

Solicitor Ian Baker, for the owner, argued the objections were based on potential anti-social behaviour and were difficult to discuss.

He added the shop would have CCTV, a ‘Challenge 25’ ID policy and well-trained staff.

Committee chairman Coun Keith Watson approved the amended application at last Wednesday’s meeting.

The shop, used to be the Big Saver, and has only been open for two weeks.