By David Spereall, local democracy reporter
Widespread fears that crime will rise if an Armley newsagents is allowed to sell booze are “misguided”, the store’s representative has claimed.
The new managers of Town Street News have applied to the city council for a licence to sell alcohol between 7am and 11pm.
A petition against the plan has been signed by 35 of the shop’s neighbours, who claim the area’s problems with booze-fuelled anti-social behaviour will only get worse.
The store is 0.3 miles away from the edge of a cumulative impact zone, which is in place to restrict the number of alcohol licences in a particular area.
As a result, it means the shop is far more likely to get the licence than if it was inside the zone.
Speaking on behalf of the store at a hearing on Tuesday, licensing solicitor Nick Semper quoted council statistics which he said showed crime was “remarkably low” in the area.
He said: “Whether there is a need for another store in this area is a matter for the market and not a concern for the licensing authority, unless there’s a cumulative impact area in place, which there is not in this case.
“With the greatest of respect, the suggestions of rising crime and disorder and anti-social behaviour problems in this locality is not supported by the empirical evidence from responsible authorities in the city.
“The representations against the licence are well meant and come from a good place, but with respect I believe they’re misguided.”
Addressing objectors in the room at Leeds’ Civic Hall directly, Mr Semper added: “I’d reassure you all that the applicants hear and understand your concerns. They get it.
“They’ve no intention of selling alcohol irresponsibly, selling alcohol to children, to drunks, or to those who behave anti-socially.”
But objector Nigel Harris told the proceedings: “I’ve lived in the area for over 40 years.
“Since a pub and a club in the area shut down the crime rate went down slowly.
“It’s now going to go up if we’ve got another shop selling alcohol. it’s just going to keep climbing and climbing.
“We’re sick of getting glass bottles in the road.
“I’ve been threatened in the streets by people who are drunk, and they come down into the area for the booze.”
Armley Labour councillor Lou Cunningham (Lab) said she’d suggested to the council that it extends the cumulative impact zone across all of Town Street.
She said: “We don’t need another alcohol access point on Town Street, when we know there are already issues with alcohol dependency in the area.
“We need to know that businesses coming into Armley are going to support our community and not extend alcohol licences that are already there.
“We live in the area and we know the problems that are there.”
At the end of the proceedings, all parties were told they’d receive the council’s decision on the licence in writing within five working days.