Council needs to carefully consider shop licence

Eve Myles stars in the new BBC series Keeping Faith'  Picture: BBC Wales

SEAN BLACKMAN: Keeping the faith

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It’s a situation that many people living across the area will sympathise with – the news that a shop near them is applying for an alcohol licence.

While it would be nice to hope for the best and think of it as a chance for nearby residents to pop out and pick up a last-minute bottle of wine, or a well-deserved beer after a work, in reality the reason that people worry about shops selling alcohol is that despite the stores’ best intentions they can end up being a magnet for trouble-makers – and therefore trouble.

In the case of the supermarket planned for the former Salvation Army in Queen Street, Portsea, it would appear that the police have decided that it would fall on the ‘causing trouble’ side of the fence, and have opposed the bid.

We share the police’s concerns. While we have no wish to hinder any entrepreneur’s desire to grow his or her business, there must be greater thought given to where and when drink can be sold.

As a country, we were promised a cafe culture with the advent of 24-hour licensing of pubs early in the last decade. As is evident from problems in Guildhall Walk in Portsmouth city centre –and many other towns – this did not come to pass. Trouble may be on the way down in Guildhall Walk, but that has not happened without a significant amount of work from police, the council and other groups.

Now we have seen more and more shops able to sell booze into the small hours, and the fear is that while pubs find themselves more and more tightly bound, shops are finding it easier to open.

We cast no aspersions on the applicants who wish to trade in Queen Street. But we would urge the council to heed the objections made by, amongst others, a headteacher, a community centre and a doctors’ surgery, and turn down the bid. Put the wider social good above the need for profit and make a stand against adding to the number of outlets in the area which already sell alcohol.

The Salvation Army is a temperance organisation that tries to do good in the world. It would be a sad irony if its former building did exactly the opposite.