By local democracy reporter Richard Beecham
Granting an alcohol licence to a convenience store in Armley would be like “rubbing salt in the wounds of residents” due to existing problems with street drinking, police have claimed.
A proposed convenience store in Armley Town Street had applied to sell alcohol, prompting angry responses from locals, citing the area’s well-publicised problems with street drinking.
The premises lies within an area known as a CIP (community impact policy) – which limits new alcohol licences in parts of the city with a high proportion of licensed premises.
Armley councillor James McKenna (Lab, Armley) offered to show the meeting photographs of what he said was a homeless person begging for alcohol. He argued the area was now attracting more people with alcohol dependency.
Coun McKenna added:
“Older people are scared to shop around Armley. People would like to take ownership back of their own town.”
A representative for applicant Nabi Lashkiri said:
“It’s his first time in business. His cousin is a wholesale importer of Eastern European foods, it’s going to be primarily a retailer of those.
“This is, first and foremost, a food retailer – this is not going to be an alcohol tail wagging the food dog.”
He added staff training, lighting, CCTV and challenge 25 had been offered, but the council’s licensing department and police have said these do not go far enough.
He then suggested a reduced sale period. After the applicant had originally applied to sell alcohol from 7am-10pm, it would now be from noon-8pm. He added:
“In no way do we intend to add to the problems of Armley. (Street drinkers) are the kind of people that we don’t want, so while we don’t underestimate the strength of local feelings, alcohol will be a very small part of this business.”
A representative of West Yorkshire Police said:
“Armley is an area that has deteriorated over the last few years for alcohol related crime.
“Reports have suggested Armley Town Street becomes a no-go zone. Individuals become highly intoxicated and can become aggressive with each other and members of the public.
“Anti-social behaviour crime is more prevalent in the afternoon between 2pm-6pm. The fact the applicant wants to finish selling alcohol at 8pm will have no bearing on the area.
“Another premises of this kind can only be detrimental to the area. To the residents it will be like rubbing salt in the wounds.”
Armley councillor Alison Lowe (Lab) told the meeting:
“I can’t impress upon you enough how passionate and desperate people in Armley are that this application is refused.
“People are really angry about the fact that Town Street no longer belongs to Armley people – they can’t shop there out of fear.
“This site is 10 feet from the one stop centre – there is a library and a nursery there. There are three primary schools – children being walked from the schools to the sports centre have to walk past this business.
“We have 18 licensed premises in Armley – I can walk from one end to the other in seven minutes.
“It is a blight – it is a scourge – local people cannot enjoy these amenities – there are a huge amount of local amenities people can’t enjoy because in order to get there, people have to walk past this.”
She also called into question the experience of the applicant, claiming he may not be prepared for the levels of abuse from street drinkers.
Coun McKenna added:
“We have to do something about this problem that is ruining our town centre.
“We would like to see a lot less (licensed premises). Local people are scared to shop in their own town centre, due to street drinkers.
“For older people it’s very difficult. Many don’t have transportation and they can’t go to supermarkets.
“It’s a hugely bad example to children, particularly those coming home from high school.
“The police do everything they can to help with limited resources, but it has very little effect on it.
“It is not fair on people who live in Armley who want to shop there. We are trying to reclaim our town centre so people can shop safely. Please, please listen to us.”
The owner of an estate agents on Town Street told the meeting:
“It’s a difficult sale sometimes when you ask tenants in to sign contracts when they have to step over a drunk.
“There are far too many people who are affected by alcohol. It’s clearly being sold to people who are already inebriated.
“I reprimanded someone who sold alcohol to someone who could barely stand up. I told them ‘you are not allowed to do that’.”
He also claimed there was anecdotal evidence that free alcohol was offered to street drinkers in the morning, so they would be “hooked for the rest of the day”.
A letter to the applicant from Leeds City Council’s licensing department read:
“Bearing in mind the severity of the problems being experienced in the area, with the area suffering from issues with people drinking on the street and causing disorder and anti-social behaviour issues, the licensing authority is of the opinion that your application does not contain sufficient information about how granting your licence would not add to the impact already being experienced in the area.
“Therefore the licensing authority submits a formal representation to your application on the grounds of prevention of crime and disorder, public safety and public nuisance and will recommend to the licensing sub-committee that this application is refused.”
The panel claimed it did not have the sufficient information to make the decision yet, and that one would be made within five working days.