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Yella shop in King’s Road, St Leonards

Yella off-licence application refused

News that the Yella store in central St Leonards was seeking a licence to sell alcohol aroused widespread protests from local residents. In the event the application failed, as Bernard McGinley reports.

The off-license application for the Yella shop in Kings Road, St Leonards, was rejected by the Hastings Borough Council licensing subcommittee on Tuesday May 31.  The application was reported here a while ago.

The Sussex Police representatives, Hastings Borough Council (HBC) licensing officers and ward representative Cllr Trevor Webb were all opposed. Cumulatively they made this tell. Cllr Webb quoted Cllr Terri Dowling’s citation of police statistics on antisocial behaviour in the area (and the fact of unrecorded instances). Local letters of objection, also considered by the subcommittee, provided more details of street life.

The police hub in Silchester Road, a response to alcohol-fuelled street problems.

The police hub in Silchester Road, in part at least a response to alcohol-fuelled street problems.

One objector spoke about the diverse problems of central St Leonards (including needles on the streets), and the public expenditure on the police hub in Silchester Road, the East Sussex County Council (ESCC) policy position, the involvement of Public Health England, local authority public health teams and Amber Rudd MP — essentially a multi-agency approach.

This was a form of expensive theatre, however, if the concerns or problems of local residents and street drinkers were not being addressed or being contained, instead being made worse. ESCC data was cited, Public Health Framework for Assessing Alcohol Licensing in East Sussex (April 2014): of the 16 wards in the borough of Hastings, Central St Leonards was top regarding ‘A&E assault attendance 8pm–4am (15–59 year olds), 2010/11 to 2012/13’. (Robertson Street and George Street must look to their razz laurels.)

The applicant and his licensing adviser offered assurances — but not persuasively. The revival of the Yella Shop under new management was commended. On the day of the meeting, however, the applicant Mr Johnpillai showed a weak grasp of the principles of the licensing act. The applicant had a personal licence from Wakefield Council in 2012, but had not – as required – notified them he had moved from Yorkshire to Sussex. This weakened his credibility (as did his declared intention to sell only to known customers).

Given this official and local opposition, the subcommittee came back and announced a refusal.

The application did not consider the saturation zone declared in central St Leonards and the negative cumulative impact issues as the ministerial guidance requires.

A particular crux is this:

13.30    The effect of adopting a special policy of this kind is to create a rebuttable presumption that applications for the grant or variation of premises licences or club premises certificates which are likely to add to the existing cumulative impact will normally be refused or subject to certain limitations, following relevant representations, unless the applicant can demonstrate in the operating schedule that there will be no negative cumulative impact on one or more of the licensing objectives.  Applicants should give consideration to potential cumulative impact issues when setting out the steps they will take to promote the licensing objectives in their application.

(Oddly enough, last year’s off-licence application for the shop on the corner of London Road and Norman Road – formerly Barraclough & Stiles – did not discuss negative cumulative impacts, but that did not prevent approval.)

More than once at the subcommittee meeting, the Sussex Police barrister pointed out that no-one is to blame for ‘cumulative impact’.  Clearly it exists, however — and it is negative.
Another contradiction went unremarked. When the Kings Road application was made, HBC leader Peter Chowney commented on the granting of licences:

It’s a very prescribed, statutory, quasi-judicial process. It has to be done in exactly the same way for every application in every council in England.

Nevertheless the 2016 local Labour Party manifesto (Fighting for Hastings) undertook (page 13) that:
A Labour Council will
Use our new Licensing Policy to restrict the proliferation of off-licences in town centres . . .
The applicant’s barrister in the Barraclough & Stiles case, a licensing law specialist, would have had sport with that one.

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Posted 15:49 Wednesday, Jun 8, 2016 In: Home Ground

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