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    C-store refused alcohol licence in area with ‘startling’ crime rate

    The new Teesside Grocers store is at 85 Borough Road (Photo: Terry Blackburn/Teesside Live via LDRS)

    A convenience store has been refused permission to sell alcohol in an area with a ‘startling’ crime rate.

    Muhammad Tayyeb Butt wanted to sell alcohol at his new store, Teesside Grocers Ltd, at 85 Borough Road, from 7am to 10pm every day.

    However, Middlesbrough Council’s licensing committee refused to award him a licence largely because the premises is in Central Ward, which is covered by the cumulative impact policy.

    This is in place in areas saturated by late-night food outlets and premises selling alcohol which are linked to an increase in crime and anti-social behaviour in the area.

    In Central ward, this means that applications by stores to sell alcohol are likely to be refused unless the owner can prove that there will be no negative impact.

    “That’s a startling statistic”

    According to Cleveland Police’s lawyer Paul Clarke, this new store would not be a positive for the area.

    He added: “As we mentioned it’s a cumulative impact policy area, it’s not as if the police are saying, if you get the shop there’s going to be death on the streets or anti-social behaviour because that’s there already.

    “Having another shop won’t help that. There is nothing new or unique about this application that would justify you from going away from that policy.”

    Mr Clarke said that the new micro-breweries and artisan bakeries on Bedford Street and Baker Street provided something new for Middlesbrough whereas this application is “completely the opposite of that.”

    He went on to add: “There have been 1,006 violent crimes in a 500 metre radius of the premises over a 13 month period.

    “That’s a startling statistic and shows the level of crime that’s already there in the local area.

    “Alcohol doesn’t reduce the amount of crime in local areas, if anything it’ll only add to it.

    “It might be a small amount but any amount is significant when you are talking about those types of statistics.”

    Mr Clarke also said that the selling of alcohol at 7am would not promote sociable drinking.

    He added: “The sort of drinkers that you see around town at 7 in the morning, those ones who have caused a great deal of anti-social behaviour throughout the town, are the sort of people you see in the magistrates court on a daily basis.

    “That has a knock-on effect to other local businesses and shops where, in the centre of Middlesbrough, you have got people begging, people are abusive because they have been drinking alcohol.

    “I’m not saying that it’s this gentleman’s premises at all, it’s a perennial problem that will only get worse if there are more premises that do sell alcohol.”

    He also raised concern about the “explosion” in the amount of drinking indoors since the start of the Covid pandemic.

    “I am not having single cans, I’m not having high-strength or spirits”

    Mr Butt, who also runs the Esso garage store on Acklam Road and Best One in Norton, did suggest that he would be happy to only sell alcohol from midday rather than 7am.

    During his opening remarks, the store owner said that he would not be selling a wide array of alcohol.

    He added: “There will just be a 1.25 metre chiller and that’s it. I am not having single cans, I’m not having high-strength or spirits, it’s all just basic.”

    Mr Butt also said that if he was awarded the licence he would be able to hire two more staff members, though that prompted concerns about the volume of alcohol he was expected to sell if it was worth two employees.

    Cleveland Police’s PC Jason Arbuckle was worried that conditions on a licence would not keep pace with the ever-evolving drinks market.

    He added: “One of my concerns is that the products with alcohol that are causing us concern now are not the same products that were causing us concern five or ten years ago.

    “I appreciate that we could come up with some conditions that will alleviate some of the problem products but who is to say in six months or a year down the line, new products come out which replace the old ones.”

    “It’s the wrong premises in the wrong place”

    The council’s principal public protection officer Sinead Upton was also against the store being awarded a licence.

    She said: “We have talked about alcohol and alcohol misuse, is quite broad, it’s often hidden and it adversely affects the individuals, families and whole communities.

    “It’s often disproportionately greater for vulnerable and disadvantaged communities. It impacts on all council services, the NHS, the police, criminal justice system, education, and voluntary sector.”

    She went on to add: “The information that we were given [by the applicant] was very vague, we called this meeting specifically to find out more, there wasn’t a lot of detail given.

    “We have no problems with the applicant and he showed a willingness to work with us but the fact of the matter is, it’s just another outlet that’s selling alcohol in an area where there are already loads of problems with the supply of alcohol.

    “We do not see any way, if this was granted, that it would not exacerbate what’s already the problems that Middlesbrough has. As the police said, it’s the wrong premises in the wrong place.”

    Ms Upton said that alcohol misuse cost Middlesbrough’s economy £56.5m per year which included costs relating to health, social care, crime, and licensing.

    She also shared some stark data which revealed that people in Middlesbrough are more likely to die of alcohol-related conditions compared to England or the region and the town has one of the highest rates for hospital admissions in 2019/20 for alcohol-related disorders.

    Ms Upton also raised concerns about the high levels of domestic abuse in the town and how alcohol is often a factor.

    Central ward councillor Linda Lewis, who has lived in the area for 37 years, was also keen to see the application for a licence refused.

    She added: “I see on a daily basis the effects of alcohol on residents in my community.”

    Mr Butt said that the store would have CCTV, including cameras outside to help identify people who could be trying to buy alcohol on behalf of others.

    In his application for a licence, he also said that no members of the public would be allowed in staff-only areas and under 18s or people who have previously created a nuisance would not be served.

    Following all of the evidence, the panel, Cllr Ron Arundale (chair), Cllr Teresa Higgins and Cllr Mieka Smiles, decided to reject the application.

    Cllr Arundale said: “We see no reason to depart from our policy, particularly cumulative impact, therefore we have decided to refuse this application.”

    The applicant will have 21 working days to appeal the decision.

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