The Sub-Committee considered a report that sought to determine an application to vary the premises licence at Morrisons Service Station, Station Road, Totnes.
The Licensing Specialist introduced the report and outlined the details of the application (as stated in the application form at Appendix A, B (i), B (ii), and C of the presented agenda report). Whilst other matters had been raised during the consultation phase, the Licensing Specialist reminded the Sub-Committee that its decision had to be based upon the four licensing objectives.
AOSB, under age sales, noise and disturbance, litter. There were no representations from responsible authorities.
1. Address by the Applicant
In his address, the applicant provided some background information to the establishment of the business and proceeded to make specific reference to:-
- The service station already being able to open 24 hours a day and sell alcohol for 18 hours a day. Service station would now be opening for 24 hours.
- Reason for extended hours was due to impact of the pandemic resulting in increased number of visitors to the region, and allowed people to shop when they felt most comfortable.
- Measures Morrisons would put in place included: full digital CCTV, panic buttons, link to main store, training for staff, operation of 25 years minimum age limit for buying, choice of alcohol for sale to avoid strong ciders etc.
- Morrisons had no current problems with alcohol sales and while the applicant accepted there were concerns over the sale of alcohol felt this would be controllable by sales. The service station was not currently selling high percentage beers and ciders but the applicant confirmed they would be happy to accept a condition confirming this
- Letters of Representations, in his opinion, did not address any likely affect
- The Applicant confirmed they were not seeking a night hatch as it would be too small for many purchases
- No additional policies introduced as there are existing policies in place that will continue to operate through extended hours
2. Address by Objectors
At this point, the Objectors who had registered a letter of representation were invited to make their submissions to the meeting. In so doing, the following points were raised:-
- The Service Station is close to an old people’s complex which could cause them to be intimidated
- It is also close to hospital
- Objectors felt that there were plenty of opportunities in town to buy alcohol during ‘normal’ times
- This license could potentially increase crime and disorder
- It could create a hot spot for gathering
- Totnes Connection Hub work with homeless and addicts and said they feared extended opening would impact on accessing these people
- Large green space belonging to the garage could be used by homeless and youth if alcohol were to be sold during the night
3. Address by the Town Council Representative
At this point, the Town Council Representative was invited to make his submissions to the meeting. In so doing, the following points were raised:-
- The Ward Member had concerns about drink drivers and a possible impact of drivers increased speeding drivers
- Potential for increased noise
- The site is close to skate park, hospital, old folks complex
- Following question from Sub-committee Member, time of most anti-social behaviour (ASB) is around pub closing and up to 2:00 o’clock am.
4. Address by the local Ward Members
A local Ward Member addressed the Sub-Committee and made reference to:-
- That Totnes already suffered from Anti Social Behaviour issues and that he was concerned this would escalate with alcohol being more readily available
- South Hams District Council had issued a Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO), due to alcohol, in 2018 for an area very close to the garage.
- Garage hours only until 9:00 pm, not midnight as Applicant stated
- The Ward Member felt there had been no attempt by Morrisons to consult locals
4. Sub-Committee Questions
Having listened to each of the representations, the Chairman requested that the Sub-Committee ask any questions of clarity. In so doing, the following points were raised:-
(a) Officer clarified PSPO allows police to surrender their alcohol in a particular area, several areas in Totnes but none into Station Road but that it was in Coronation Rd next to Supermarket and across the roundabout from the garage. PSPO will lapse in January 2021, unless it is re-instated following new process. A map of the PSPO was displayed.
(b) Applicant confirmed hours of opening he gave are correct, and that Google was listing them incorrectly
All objectors were asked if they wished to attend the afternoon session or have their objections carried forward. All requested their objections be carried forward save the Ward Member representative who confirmed he would attend the second session.
Applicant summed up.
Once all parties were content that they had no further issues or questions to raise, the Sub Committee then adjourned (at 11:35am) to consider the application and then reconvened at 2:00pm.
5. The Decision
In announcing the Sub-Committee decision, the following statement was issued:
1. The Licensing Sub-Committee was convened on 12 August 2020 to determine an application by the Applicant to vary the Premises Licence under the Licensing Act 2003 to remove the restriction of the sale of alcohol (currently permitted between 0600 to midnight) to enable sales of alcohol 24 (twenty four) hours a day.
2. The Sub-Committee considered the application form and representations received in writing and made at the hearing.
3. The Sub-Committee decided to REFUSE the Application.
REASONS FOR THE DECISION
4. The Sub-Committee considered the application in line with the four Licensing Objectives and consideration was also given to the Government Guidance issued under Section 182 of the 2003 Act, the submitted Operating Schedule and the Council’s Statement of Licensing Policy.
5. The Sub-Committee considered the application form together with representations received in writing, the Licensing Officer’s report, and the representations of the Applicant and third parties made at the Hearing.
6. The Sub-Committee listened carefully to Mr Taylor on behalf of the Applicant who advised that the Service Station currently only opens till 11pm but can already sell all products other than alcohol for a period of 24 hours. Mr Taylor explained that it was the intention of the Applicant to open the Service Station, if the application is granted to operate 24 hours. The reason for this change was the coronavirus pandemic and the influx of tourists. The increased opening hours would enable people to shop when they were most comfortable and there was an increase in grocery sales from Service Stations.
7. Mr Taylor listed the policies that the Applicant has in place to meet the Licensing Objectives. These included CCTV, personal licence holders, till prompts, Challenge 25, independent test purchasing, and alcohol situated behind the till. Copies of these polices were not provided with the application or to the Sub-Committee at the Hearing.
8. The Sub Committee heard from Ms Nicholls who advised that she was responsible for licensing across the country and she advised that the Applicant’s policies were robust because Morrisons valued and protected their licences.
9. The Sub-Committee has considered carefully Mr Taylor’s submissions that there is no evidence that the variation in hours is likely to affect the Licensing Objectives and further that the representations from third parties are not relevant.
10. The Sub-Committee has not taken into account those representations which objected on the basis of an absence of need and or greed in seeking a variation, as in the opinion of the Sub-Committee they were not relevant.
11. The Sub – Committee accepts that concerns regarding public health are not matters that the Committee could consider as Public Health is not one of the four Licensing Objectives.
12. The Sub-Committee has considered the Statutory Guidance and the Council’s Licensing Policy. In particular its attention was drawn to paragraph 6.8 of the Council’s policy which effectively repeats paragraph 10.15 of the Statutory Guidance does not seek to distinguish between the types of goods that can be sold when the premises are open unless there are exceptional reasons relating to the licensing objectives. The Sub -Committee also notes that the same paragraph provides by way of examples, premises which have been the focal point of disorder and disturbance or particularly early opening time where the availability of alcohol could impact adversely on the Licensing Objectives.
13. The Sub Committee noted that in January 2018 when the Applicant had previously sought the same variation the police had sought conditions relating to the use of a night hatch and a condition restricting the sale of super strength beer, lager or cider save for specialist products. The Applicant advised that they would accept a similar condition regarding the alcohol but not a night hatch. The Sub-Committee was not satisfied that a condition seeking to restrict the sale of particular types of alcohol would address the concerns raised in the representations. The Sub-Committee has afforded significant weight to the fact that none of the Responsible Authorities listed in the Licensing Officer’s report made representations on this application and conditions had not been requested by the police.
14. The Sub-Committee considered the representations received from residents, Councillors, those working with or responsible for children and organisations involved in addressing directly, problems related to the misuse of alcohol in Totnes. These problems are on-going despite the current restriction on the sale of alcohol at the Service Station. It was a matter for the Sub-Committee to determine what weight to give to the representations of third parties and the absence of a representation from the Responsible Authorities did not mean that the representations received should be afforded no weight. The Sub-Committee noted that the Designated Premises Supervisor, listed on the application was not present at the Hearing.
15. In addition to the written representations received the Sub-Committee heard from Carmen Luscombe a resident living near the petrol station who provided crime statistics for Totnes in May 2020. Ms Luscombe detailed that there were 68 incidents including 22 relating to anti-social behaviour, 15 violent crime and 8 public order offences. The figures were not disputed. Ms Luscombe also advised that she had suffered from disturbance caused by people intoxicated with alcohol and that the Service Station is located in close proximity to a number of residential properties.
16. The Sub-Committee also heard from representatives of Totnes Connection Hub regarding people in Totnes struggling with addiction, and residents concerns that increased access to alcohol will contribute to public nuisance, crime and disorder and present a risk of harm to children.
17. The Sub-Committee heard from Councillor Hodgson on behalf of Totnes Town Council who were concerned of the impact of increased alcohol sales particularly at night, issues around public nuisance in a residential area when the area is generally quiet in the early hours and the safe guarding of young people.
18. Cllr Birch a Totnes Councillor advised the Sub-Committee of anti social behaviour occurring in Totnes because of excessive alcohol, and spoke on behalf of the Street Pastors of Totnes who have experience of working with people in Totnes both adults and children under the influence of alcohol.
19. The Applicant relied on the absence of representations of Responsible Authorities to conclude that there was no evidence that the grant of the variation was likely to effect the promotion of the Licensing Objectives. However the Sub-Committee disagrees and having listened carefully to all the representations, has concluded that it is more probable than not that the variation would result in a failure to meet Licensing Objectives to prevent Crime and Disorder, to prevent Public Nuisance and to protect Children from Harm.
20. The Sub-Committee concludes that it would not be appropriate to grant the application. This decision is made in accordance with section 6.4 and 6.8 of the Council’s Statement of Licensing Policy. The application is REFUSED and the Premises Licence will remain unchanged so that all existing conditions continue to apply.