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Armley: New off licence refused by council amid street drinking concerns

Plans to sell alcohol in a shop in Armley have been refused – after police, council officers and the local MP said it would go against efforts to curb street drinking in the area.

Lietuvaite Shop in Branch Road originally wanted permission to sell alcohol for consumption off the premises every day between 9am and 9pm but later reduced it to between 10am and 8pm following local concerns.

Licensing agent for Lietuvaite, Stewart Gibson, said all alcohol would be kept behind the counter, with no self-service. He offered to install shutters so that the alcohol was not immediately visible and stressed that the sale of alcohol would always be ancillary to grocery sales.

Mr Gibson added that what he had heard during the hearing showed that the current approach to tckling street drinking in Armley was not working and the existing problems were ‘clearly nothing to do with the applicant, who is offering something different.

He added that supply does not dictate demand; it is demand which drives supply.

But councillors sitting on Leeds City Council’s licensing sub committee unanimously refused the application.

They said granting the application would run contrary to the licensing objectives – especially the prevention of public nuisance – and that granting the application would add to the cumulative impact of an already high concentration of off licence businesses.

They said the applicant was a responsible and diligent man who would have complied with any conditions applied and the Committee did not doubt his good intentions. a report refusing the application added:

“The problems were not of his making. Unfortunately, even with the measures set out in the application and additional conditions proffered by Mr Gibson on his behalf, the Committee concluded that the licensing objectives would be undermined were it to grant the licence.”

Armley is a designated Cumulative Impact Policy (CIP) zone – an area in which it is more difficult to get a new permission to sell alcohol due to problems with drink-related anti-social behaviour.

A letter from West Yorkshire Police, objecting to the plans, says not enough measures have been proposed by the applicant to say how antisocial behaviour will be kept to a minimum. It added:

“This application, in terms of the proposed measures and conducting of licensable activities, is essentially no different when compared to any of the other existing licensed premises upon which the Armley (CIP) was founded.

“The application mirrors in most respects what is already allowed with existing licensed premises in the area concerned and which initially brought about the problems associated with the Armley area and the subsequent implementation of the (CIP).

“In these circumstances, West Yorkshire Police has no alternative but to ask a presiding subcommittee at a forthcoming hearing concerning this application, to… refuse it outright.”

Councillor Lou Cunningham (Lab, Armley) said that she has lived in Armley for around 20 years.

She told the Committee that her son refuses to accompany her shopping on Town Street because he says she will end up helping someone who has collapsed through alcohol misuse or waiting for an ambulance to arrive. Cllr Cunningham said children deserve to feel safe.

Leeds West MP Rachel Reeves (Lab) submitted a letter of her own to the committee, claiming there was “no doubt” a link between the large numbers of off licences in Armley and the prevalence of street drinking in the area. She said: 

“Armley must become a place where local people can enjoy their community. I hope that the licensing committee will continue to support the efforts of the police, local community and Leeds City Council in addressing these issues by properly applying the Cumulative Impact Policy and preventing any new alcohol licences from being granted in this area.”

A letter from St George’s Crypt, which runs a drug and alcohol rehabilitation project in Armley, said a new alcohol licence would simply reinforce the reputation of Town Street as a go-to area for cheap alcohol, and could be a “trigger spot” that would impact people’s recovery.

Another letter, from a police officer working in Armley, claims he had to “phone the ambulance on many occasions” due to people being passed out in the daytime through drink and drugs.

The application stated: “The premises will operate to a high standard, and will do so should this licence be granted in terms of the sale of alcohol. All staff will be fully trained in their responsibilities with regard to the sale of alcohol, and will be retrained every six months, with recorded training records kept for inspection.”

It added that CCTV would be provided, “capable of providing pictures of evidential quality”, as well as an incident report register, a challenge 25 policy and training for staff to call the police if they are unable to diffuse situations.

The application can be viewed in full here.


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