Calderdale Council Licensing Subcommittee has approved a licence for the sale of alcohol between 7am-11pm, 7 days a week at Sainsbury’s Local on Valley Road, Hebden Bridge, even though the store hasn’t yet got planning permission.
At the licence application hearing on 13th February, the solicitor representing Sainsbury’s said,
“If you took alcohol out of the store, the incremental impact is very significant. I’m virtually sure that Sainsbury’s Local wouldn’t open this store if it didn’t get the alcohol licence.”
Hebden Bridge residents – including members of SOS Hebden Bridge who are campaigning against the presence of Sainsbury’s Local in the town – objected to the alcohol licence application, on the grounds that alcohol sales from the proposed store would create a public nuisance and increase crime, disorder and anti-social behaviour, and there was therefore a need to protect children from harm.
The residents pointed out that Hebden Bridge has a problem with young people and public drinking. Bringing alcohol sale into a residential area would make the problem worse.
No objections from “responsible authorities”
Cllr Thornber, Chair of the Licensing Subcommittee, announced that they had approved the Sainsbury’s Local application for an alcohol licence because:
- there were no objections from responsible authorities, such as the police and public health
- and Home Office guidance is that stores can’t be held responsible for the drunken behaviour of customers away from the store
He told objectors that they could appeal the decision to grant the alcohol licence, at the Magistrates Court within the next 21 days.
Afterwards Councillor Janet Battye, who had not attended the hearing, expressed surprise that no responsible authority had objected to the alcohol licence application, since police know about alcohol-related problems in Hebden Bridge, and Calderdale Health and Wellbeing Board had recently discussed alcohol-related public health problems and the fact that 10% of Calderdale hospital admissions are related to alcohol. Councillor Battye will now ask the police and public health about this.
Calderdale Health Profile 2013 includes the information that:
- Levels of alcohol-specific hospital stays among those under 18 are worse than the England average
- Adult rates of hospital stays for alcohol-related harm are also worse than the England average
During the hearing, the Sainsbury’s solicitor said,
“The police are the responsible authority and I’m sure if they had concerns about this application they would have contacted me and if I couldn’t satisfy them, they’d be at this hearing. And they’re not.”
Procedural restrictions on what objectors can say
Objecting to the application on the grounds that Sainsbury’s Local alcohol sales would create a public nuisance, one of the SOS Hebden Bridge objectors said that the Home Office has called for a review of licensing laws.
But the Sainsburys Local solicitor challenged that Sainsbury’s should have had sight of this objection before the meeting.
The Calderdale MBC solicitor agreed that the objector’s point about the Home Office call for a review of the licensing regime was not allowable. Cllr Simon Young clarified that objectors had to stick to what was in their written submission to the Licensing Subcommittee.
Nina Smith, a Hebden Bridge resident, objected to the alcohol licence application because an alcohol licence at Sainsbury’s Local would create a public nuisance and expose children to harm. She said,
“Hebden Bridge has an acknowledged problem of young people behaving in an anti-social manner due to alcohol consumption, in both Calder Holmes Park and in the town centre. Another store with an alcohol licence will lead to price wars and increased alcohol consumption.
With the Sainsbury’s Local store in a residential area, this increases the likelihood of children purchasing alcohol, particularly via proxy purchasers. A study shows that 42% of 14-15 year olds were drinking alcohol in the past month in West Yorkshire. Sainsbury’s Local has admitted they can’t do much about proxy purchases, so if they’re not in a position to uphold the law maybe they’re the wrong organisation to hold a licence.”
A dispute then broke out about whether referring to a study that hadn’t been presented as part of Ms Smith’s written submission was allowable.
Ms Smith demanded of the Chair,
“Do I need to put all the evidence in writing?”
The Chair and the Calderdale Council solicitor said that Ms Smith’s evidence from the study she referred to was not allowable because she had not submitted it with her written objection, so the applicant would not have had sight of it.
Ms Smith replied,
“I suggest that if he hasn’t seen this government document, he’s not doing his job properly.”
Objecting to the application, SOS Hebden Bridge member Ralph Nimman asked,
“How can a review of the license take place? The Sainsbury’s solicitor said this would be possible, if it turns out that there is a public nuisance as a result of alcohol sales from Sainsbury’s Local. How would this review be possible, because of the difficulty of proving that public drunkenness was due to any one store, such as Sainsbury’s Local?”
The Chair, Cllr Thornber said,
“Unfortunately we can only do what’s permitted within the legislation and we can’t take into account any wider issues.”
Sainsbury’s solicitor says proxy purchases are not a problem
The Sainsbury’s solicitor challenged Nina Smith’s evidence that proxy purchasing is the main source of children’s alcohol consumption. He said that most children get alcohol from their family.
Cllr Thornber said this was outside the terms of the application.
The Sainsbury’s solicitor continued,
“The police are the responsible authority and I’m sure if they had concerns about this application they would have contacted me and if I couldn’t satisfy them, they’d be at this hearing and they’re not.
Most Sainsbury’s Local stores are in residential areas. If people are drinking on the street when children are passing, the public can call for a review of the licence. This hasn’t happened anywhere else. There is no evidence that these fears will materialise.
The decision must be evidence-based.
All the planning issues objectors have referred to will be dealt with in the planning process, and this could reduce the licensing hours.”
Before Councillors Thornber, Chris Pillai and Simon Young retired to make their decision, the Chair asked everyone if they had had an opportunity to state their case. Everyone agreed they had.
Ralph Nimman added,
“I have had the opportunity to state my case within the limitations of the procedural framework.”
Updated 14 Feb to correct Nina Smith’s statement about underage drinking in West Yorkshire. Plain Speaker mistakenly reported her as saying that 42% of under 18s in West Yorkshire obtained alcohol through proxy purchases. In fact Ms Smith referred to a study that found that 42% of West Yorkshire 14-15 year olds were drinking alcohol in the past month.