Petrol giant in court over alcohol licence at Rowlands Castle garage

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A CONTROVERSIAL decision to allow a service station to sell alcohol has been challenged in court.

Rowlands Castle Parish Council is appealing against a decision by East Hampshire District Council to grant an alcohol licence to the Shell garage in Whichers Gate Road, Rowlands Castle.

Shell was granted the licence at a council hearing last year and is allowed to sell alcohol every day from 6am to 10pm.

But the decision caused anger in the village as many believe it could encourage drink-driving and anti-social behaviour.

The petrol station’s proximity to St John’s Primary School was also a concern.

The parish council challenged the decision at Fareham Magistrates’ Court yesterday.

The crux of the council’s argument was that the vast majority of people use the station as a garage to buy petrol – and not to buy food and drink.

Under Section 176 of the Licensing Act, premises mainly used as a garage cannot sell alcohol.

Julia Palmer, a licensing lawyer, said: ‘Are these premises primarily a garage? If they are primarily a garage... they are excluded. They do not have the authorisation to sell alcohol.’

John Pickering, chairman of the parish council, whose professional background is in retail studies and economics, claimed data provided by Shell at the hearing last October was flawed.

Shell had calculated 47 per cent of its sales had come from goods other than petrol, so selling alcohol would be a good option for the service station. The council’s own analysis of the garage shop was that it was not well-stocked enough to be a convenience store.

He said: ‘There were quite significant gaps in some of the shelves.’

He said the average purchase was around 40 litres of petrol and around £2.40 on other items.

He added: ‘It’s certainly not anything that’s a significant shop. The purchase is very much the impulse purchase.’

However, representatives of Shell argued the shop is a convenience outlet as it has around 1,500 product lines.

Leo Charalambides, the barrister representing Shell, said that just because the garage section of the station was bigger did not mean petrol was the primary use.

He said: ‘Inevitably it’s going to need more space than a convenience store because milk, cigarettes and newspapers don’t take up as much space as fuel.’