Harehills off-licence’s plans to extend hours face stiff opposition

By Richard Beecham, Local Democracy Reporter

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Photo: iStock

Controversial plans to allow a shop to sell alcohol in Harehills are set to go before Leeds City Council decision-makers next week.

Zuber Mini Market, in Seaforth Place, wants permission to sell alcohol seven days a week from 7am-10.30pm.

But West Yorkshire Police, Leeds City Council’s licensing team and local ward councillors have all objected to the proposals, claiming the area is already suffering from alcohol-related antisocial behaviour, and the plans would only make the problems worse.

The applicant, Sarwat Hama Abdullah, says in his application that measures would be put in place to ensure public safety, adding that the shop would not sell super-strength beer and cider.

Harehills became a cumulative impact area in early 2019 – this gives decision-makers powers to make it more difficult for anyone to successfully apply for a new alcohol licence, due to crime and antisocial behaviour problems already in that area.

A document from Leeds City Council claims the area in which the shop is located ranks 20th out of the 482 most deprived areas in Leeds, and houses one of the highest numbers of children in the city.

It concluded: “The licensing authority submits a formal representation on the grounds of prevention of crime and disorder, public safety, public nuisance and the protection of children from harm and we recommend to the licensing sub-committee that this application is refused.”

Another letter, from the council’s cleaner neighbourhoods team, added: “A very serious issue is already prevalent in Harehills in regards to street drinking and the level of anti-social behaviour and crimes reported in relation to it.

“There are already a high volume of off-licenses next to one another on Harehills Lane (merely a few metres walking distance away) that sell very cheap alcohol and sell cans of beer individually. Another shop with similar products is not only unnecessary but would add to the issues we are already tackling.”

A letter from the council’s communities and environments team claims the application is a “very well written and researched document”, but that an issue remained around street drinking, and that new off licences would simply make the problem worse.

Local councillors also spoke out against the plans.

Coun Kamila Maqsood (Lab) said: “Along Harehills Lane and Harehills Road, approximately 70 percent of shops are selling alcohol. These shops sit next to people’s homes, schools as well as places of worship.

“Numerous residents have talked to us as ward councillors about their experiences of drink-related abuse and violence on their doorstep. This behaviour has led to damage to property broken glass, urine and worse left on pavements outside people’s homes.”

Coun Salma Arif (Lab) added: “As a deprived community, we are trying on a daily basis to redress the current imbalance in an area where premises licensed to sell alcohol have reached saturation point to the detriment of its people.

“Granting this application will be slap on the faces of everyone who has campaigned for the (cumulative impact area) wanting a safer future for themselves and their children.”

The application for the licence at Zuber Mini Market stated: “The applicant understands the social and domestic problems that Leeds City Council and West Yorkshire Police can face in dealing with key challenges from many diverse cultures, languages, races and faiths in communities and individuals. The applicant also fully respects and commends the immense effort and success that is already being achieved through policies, strategies and local initiatives.”

It added the premises would be: “a small local retail shop servicing a densely populated residential area, selling groceries, confectionery, magazines and sundry items offering local services for payment of bills and collection/pickup of parcels.”

The document claimed the shop would eventually employ two full time and two part-time staff, following a full refurbishment.

It stated: “The business model has estimated to be about 40 customers per hour in the morning, 35 per hour in the early afternoon and 30 per hour from 4pm until 6pm, tailing off to between 10 to 15 per hour up until closing time.

“The premises consist of one small room (corner shop) and the alcoholic products will accommodate no more than 20 percent of the floor space of the premises.

“All alcohol will be stored and sold behind the counter. Customers will not have access to any alcohol drinks until paid for.”

It added that the premises would operate an effective CCTV system, use roller shutters, and would not sell high-strength lager or cider, nor would it sell single cans.

Leeds City Council’s licensing sub-committee will meet to discuss the application on Tuesday, September 22.