Bid to sell booze is turned down

CONTROVERSIAL plans to sell alcohol at a general dealers have been thrown out over concerns it could lead to anti-social behaviour, crime and disorder for nearby residents.

Hartlepool Police, ward councillors and 69 residents had objected to plans by Varan Thananayagiam to sell alcohol between 9am and 10pm at a new store in Elwick Road, Hartlepool.

The application for a new premises licence for permission to sell booze was rejected by the council’s licensing act sub-committee.

The store, which will employ four people, can still open but won’t be allowed to sell alcohol.

There is at least five licenced premises within half a mile of the new store and angry residents said they could see “no justification” for another.

Labour councillor Ged Hall, who represents the Burn Valley ward and residents at the meeting, said: “This is in the wrong place and should not be granted in this location at this time.”

Neighbourhood Police Sergeant Dave Halliday said the premises are at the centre of one of the busiest areas of the ward and that historically, premises selling alcohol attract disorder.

Sgt Halliday said there had been 48 incidents of retail crime in that ward last year, 44 per cent of which related to licensed premises.

He said: “The addition of one more licensed premises will only add to this total.”

Concerned residents said they didn’t experience any problems when it was previously used as a hairdressers but said there had been crime and anti-social behaviour when it used to be a general dealers several years ago.

Suresh Kanapathi, who represented Mr Thananayagiam, said the applicant had experience of running a shop in Croydon for five years, in an area suffering from high levels of crime, and said he worked with the police and trained staff in spotting under-age sales.

Mr Thananayagiam said he would do the same with this shop and adopt a Challenge 25 policy, wouldn’t sell high-strength or cheap alcohol, wouldn’t serve drunk people and would install a CCTV system.

Carol Laud, chairwoman of Burn Valley North Residents’ Association, said: “While I applaud the measures you are proposing they are not any more, and in some cases less, than the existing premises have and despite that we still have 44 per cent of incidents attributed to licensed premises.

“Even with these reasonable measures in place there is nothing that can persuade me the level of crime and anti-social behaviour will decline.”

Conservative councillor George Morris, committee chair, said: “The licensing sub-committee accepted the evidence presented by the police and the objectors and considered that anti-social behaviour would return to the area if the premises were to be granted a licence.

“The sub-committee considered that the licensing objectives would not be promoted if the application was granted and further, that they could not impose any conditions which would enable the licensing objectives to be promoted.”

Labour councillor Jonathan Brash and independent councillor John Lauderdale had also raised objections.

Coun Brash wasn’t at the meeting but said afterwards: “This is a great victory for Burn Valley residents and huge credit to them for making a stand and voicing their concerns, including Burn Valley North Residents’ Association.”

Speaking afterwards, Mr Kanapathi said: “I can understand the fear but there was no concrete evidence and we put forward a range of conditions.”