Neighbours fear drinks licence for Hove shop will bring anti-social behaviour

Neighbours are worried that their area will become afflicted by noise and anti-social behaviour if a newsagent is granted a licence to sell alcohol.

Dozens of them were so concerned that they wrote to object to a licence application by Martin McColl Ltd, owner of Martin’s, in Richardson Road, Hove.

The company applied to Brighton and Hove City Council for a licence to sell drink from 6am until 11pm seven days a week.

The application prompted 92 letters of opposition from neighbours, local businesses and ward councillor Chris Henry.

People from the area also spoke out at a licensing panel at Hove Town Hall today (Monday 28 October).

Richard Gill, who lives in the area, urged the panel to reject the application to sell beer, wine, cider and spirits from 6am until 11pm every day.

Mr Gill said: “Richardson Road is a sleepy backwater. We want to keep it as it is.

“If you do allow this, we will get people singing and shouting late at night. We do not want increasing drunkenness and anti-social behaviour.”

He told the panel that he had also objected to a previous application for a licence in 2013.

Sussex Police also opposed the application. Police suggested 8am to 10pm as licensed hours but the proposal was rejected by the company.

The force’s licensing officer Mark Thorogood told the panel that the area was not considered a problem by police.

Westbourne, was ranked 20th out of 23 electoral wards in Brighton and Hove for alcohol-related crime.

The police wanted it to stay that way, he said.

Martin McColl’s barrister, Leo Charalambides, said that the company was committed to being a good operator. If neighbours’ fears were realised, he said, the licence could be reviewed.

The company wanted to convert the shop from a newsagent to convenience store for commercial reasons, he said, and the shop already sold cigarettes without any issue with “proxy sales” – youngsters asking adults to buy cigarettes on their behalf.

The shop did not employ any teenagers, Mr Charalambides said, reducing the risk of underage sales. He added: “None of our shops are run in a way to attract kids.

“Why does anyone thing McColl’s wants to operate that way? It would be bad for business, bad for the community and bad for our reputation.”

Staff also have regular training and refreshers if they log either too many or too few refusals.

Mr Charalambides said that he understood neighbours’ anxieties but they were just that, anxieties, as the shop would not be a destination but there to serve the community.

He said: “We will behave because we want people to go out from their homes and walk to us.”

Councillor Jackie O’Quinn said that she knew the area well, adding: “The area is quiet and I can see why people want it to stay that way.

“It’s quiet, without the problems further down the road in Hove. It would be a shame to damage this little enclave.”

She made reference to how the council’s Licensing Committee had restricted new licensed businesses in part of Hove after a large number of bars opened along Church Road.

The panel said that licensed sales could be restricted, with 9am until 9pm as a compromise, and they could be limited to no more than 20 or 25 per cent of the shop floor area.

The panel was chaired by Councillor O’Quinn and included Councillor Martin Osborne and Councillor Theresa Fowler. Their decision is expected to be made public within five working days.

  1. Christopher Hawtree Reply

    I went along, and have put this piece on a local site:

    This morning I went along to the Licensing Panel at which the Application for a booze Licence at the “convenience” store on Richardson Road was heard.

    I was on the Panel in 2013 at which a similar Application was thrown out as not suitable for a residential area whose needs are met by an off licence opposite and places along Portland Road. At that time cllr Cox spoke cogently about it.

    Today the national chain McColls had hired a lawyer who, for one in his trade, was curiously inaudible and, from time to time, palpably rattled; indeed he was almost insulting towards the Police who, as before, made a stong case for this being not suitable in that delightful nook.

    Of course, the chain is not seeking to make a display to rival Warhol’s soup tins. In due course, the lawyer was asked the reason for the Application, and he had to admit that, in effect, it was to make money, tacit admission that “convenience stores” are on the way out (as we saw with David’s on Portland Road).

    Residents spoke well, showing the way in which the shops are relished.

    We do not yet know the Panel’s decision, which will be announced within five days, and will be relayed by Sarah Booker-Lewis online in Brighton and Hove News. She was there today, and we discussed it. There was a hint that the Panel might agree a compromise, to reduce the national company’s wanting to sell booze from six in the morning until eleven at night – and to restrict the space that it occupies in the shop. Then again, the Application might be thrown out a second time.

    One might wonder whether the current manager, at seventy, is willing to take on the added burden of responsibility for a booze licence. He could leave. Would the chain find somebody as repsonsive to the neighbourhood?

    Perhaps Richardson Road would be better served if McColl’s left. The premises would surely find a local firm to take it on. One of the heartening things about Richardson Road is that it shows local shops can do well when providing the diverse things needed here. This is so cheering in corporate times.

Leave a Reply

*

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.