New off-licence to open ‘within metres’ of two others in Stockport

By Nick Statham, Local Democracy Reporter

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Edgeley Discount Store, 41 Castle Street, Edgeley, Stockport. Photo: Google Streetview

A new off-licence is to open ‘within metres’ of two others on a street blighted by ‘alcohol fuelled’ anti-social behaviour.

Stockport council has granted a premises licence for a shop in Castle Street, Edgeley, despite a panel hearing the area has a serious problem with intimidating drunks and ‘low level crime’.

Cllr Chris Gordon – chair of the licensing, environment and safety sub-committee – said that while there was ‘great sympathy’ with local concerns, the application was ‘good’ and had to be treated on its own merits.

The shop is to be run by Edgeley Local Limited, which says it will operate CCTV round-the-clock and keeping an incident log in order to assist police and licensing chiefs in the event of any incidents.

The firm also has another shop at 18 Castle Street, but the committee heard this had not been linked with any trouble.

Speaking on behalf of the applicant,  Anthony Gregson said the premises, at currently operating as Edgeley Discount Store –  were much bigger and would allow people to get a ‘top -up’ grocery shop. But he added the sale of the alcohol was ‘pivotal’ to the business.

He urged the panel to make a decision based on the record of Edgeley Local rather than the ongoing issues in the area.

However Edgeley and Cheadle Heath councillor Sheila Bailey spoke against the application.

She told the online meeting that recent years had seen an increase in ‘alcohol fuelled anti-social behaviour’ and drug issues at the top end of Castle Street.

She said: “Shoppers told us they no longer wanted to be in that part of the street during the day, nor walk home that way at night.

“We have received complaints from shopkeepers in that section about drinkers outside the shops shouting at passers-by and spending hours sitting on the benches meant for people who were shopping.”

Since lockdown rules changed to allow pubs and eateries to operate as off-licences, there are  now 11 of them in Castle Street, according to Cllr Bailey.

“Should a third licence be granted in this location it would put three premises within three metres of each others, one of which operates 24/7,” she said.

PC Julie Battersby also told the committee that the police were aware of ‘disproportionate anti-social behaviour and low-level crime’ in the area.

This had led to them putting in place a ‘problem solving’ initiative for Castle Street, ‘directly in relation to the existing licensed premises’.

She added: “It is our belief if we have a further licensed premise in that very location it would only increase the reports in both frequency and severity of crime and general disorder in that vicinity.”

However, announcing the committee’s decision to grant a licence, Cllr Gordon said council policies did not allow for factors not related to the applicant to be taken into account.

“We have to look at the application as it stands, where the applicant has provided a good application as far as his own premises are concerned,” he said.

“We are unable to take the fact there’s anti-social behaviour from other areas directly into consideration, as this decision is directly appealable to the magistrates court.

“And there are no direct reasons from the Licensing Act, other than the anti-social behaviour issue which no one has been able to say has any direct relation to this application, especially as there are no problems associated or known from his previous shop.”

However Cllr Gordon said the committee was to look into the council implementing policies which would allow it to consider whether there were too many off-licences in an area and the impact new licensed premises could have.