Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Tesco Licensing Premises Application

The deadline for representations on Tesco's application for a premises licence to sell alcohol from their planned Mill Road store closes tomorrow. Many thanks for all those who have copied me in to their representations - for info, most but not all were opposing the application.

As part of this process, I've learnt a bit about the process for making representations - which it appears is much narrower than for planning applications - you must be an interested party (which for most people means local resident), and address concerns in specific categories relating to licensing objectives. Local Councillors have no special right to comment as a local representative - if asked I can represent a constituent, but only to help put across that constituents views (I haven't been asked!). I am however a local resident in my own right, so have made representations on this issue, pasted below, which outline my views on the issue.

Meanwhile, Tesco's seem to have got started with the store conversion - with or without a licence to sell alcohol, permission for air conditioning or a plan for how they are going to deliver to the store:

"I am writing as someone living in the vicinity of the premises concerning the licensing application by Tesco Stores Ltd, 163-167 Mill Road, Cambridge

The representations relate to the prevention of crime and disorder, the protection of children from harm and public safety.

I am writing as a local resident, although as a local Councillor I am also aware of many concerns raised by constituents in neighbouring Coleridge ward about the problems of alcohol related crime and disorder.

Many areas and recreation grounds in Coleridge suffer from late night underage drinking parties – the local area is a pilot area in Cambridge for the Community Alcohol Partnership between Trading Standards and the police that aims to tackle underage drinking in public places. This partnership has identified that as well as buying alchohol themselves, young people also obtain alcohol by persuading adults to buy it for them.

There are also well documented problems with alcohol related crime disorder and anti-social behaviour in Mill Road that led to the introduction of the cumulative impact zone.

It is fully possible that a new license to sell alcohol can be issued that doesn’t contribute to these problems, for example, a responsible alcohol vendor with very well controlled sales staff, that doesn’t specialise in selling alcohol at low prices in terms of cost per unit of alcohol. In these circumstances I would have no objections in principle to the issue of a new alcohol licence on Mill Road despite the cumulative impact zone. This is presumably why the assumption that new licences will not be granted in cumulative impact zones is rebuttable.

With regards to the specifics of the proposed Tesco site, there is the issue of how the store will be delivered. A re-run of the planning arguments against the opening of this store by Tesco is clearly not appropriate, but one aspect is clearly relevant to the licensing application.

I understand that there is a planning condition on the site that prohibits delivery from the store. Delivery from Mill Road will add considerably to the dangers to cyclists using the road, and therefore is an issue of public safety.

The question therefore is the extent to which Tesco can give assurances that it will act in a very responsible way when selling alcohol, and address these concerns.

I would be opposed to Tesco being granted a license to sell alcohol on Mill Road unless they can:

Demonstrate that it has robust procedures specifically appropriate to the Mill Road context to avoid sale of alcohol that would end up with people who are likely to cause crime and disorder on Mill Road, or underage people likely to drink in Coleridge ward, along with management undertakings that these procedures will be rigorously monitored and enforced.

Undertake not to engage in irresponsible alcohol promotions or the sale of very cheap alcohol (as it arguably does do in some of its stores) which is likely to encourage irresponsible drinking, or
likely to encourage other local retailers to respond with promotions of their own.

Undertake not to deliver supplies relating to the license from Mill Road, and to comply with all other planning regulations."


Ruth said...

Hi Chris,
The issue of alcohol promotions would be an interesting one given how dependent this store would be on alcohol sales. If you compare the latest floorplan with the two before it, you'll see that every time Tesco gets squeezed at the site (no extension, installing more expensive chiller cabinets to avoid having to use external refrigeration plant) they increase the proportion of the store devoted to the sale of alcohol. The proportion of the store marked out for alcohol sales is now double what it was originally. That doesn't really suggest sensitivity to the problems associated with a the cumulative impact zone!

Martin said...

Tesco demonstrating they can act in a very responsible way? How about these two quotes from the CEN to start with?

"City council planning officer Peter Carter said: "There is a previous planning condition that deliveries cannot be made to the front of the shop.""

"A Tesco spokeswoman said: "We will deliver to the front of the store as the previous occupants did and as do most retailers on Mill Road.""

Does that kind of bullish response engender trust?

Chris Howell said...


Martin said...

The licensing policy states that an *application* is only valid if the site has planning permission (or is currently operating). Given that that is far from a settled manner, it seems to me that the application should not even be considered, never mind judged.

As a matter of principle, it would not be acceptable for the licensing body to create what could be construed as a de facto planning permission.

Martin said...

Apologies, that link was wrong. It should have been:

The key phrase is:

"A licensing application must only be made if the premises is or will be operating lawfully in planning terms and all conditions imposed on a permission or planning obligation have been or are being complied with."