Decision was clearly a bad one

Councillors on the licensing committee defend their decision (Letters, January 22) to have a new off-licence in central St Leonards – but it’s not persuasive.

Behind all their procedural niceties is a simple fact: the wrong decision was reached.

The brief decision to award an off-licence included the statement: “No factual evidence was provided by the police.” I was at the meeting, and this is simply untrue.

The police evidence was long and persuasive.

At one point they declined to be drawn on statistics relating to fixed penalty notices because – like arrests – that is not the principal measure of nuisance relating to licensed premises.

The premises are in a Saturation Zone that was designated after careful analysis of relevant data relating to central St Leonards.

That is factual evidence too.

Anyone familiar with the area will know that there is a problem of public disorder (or the threat of it).

Cllr Charlesworth at the meeting expressed her concern about this, that made her and many others uncomfortable.

Sussex Police and the licensing officers of Hastings Borough Council were clear that a refusal was legally viable and consistent with public policy.

Both ward councillors also objected.

Even so, the subcommittee decided two-to-one in favour of the application – even though there was no consideration (as required) of what the Saturation Zone meant locally, and ‘negative cumulative impact’ issues.

So much for ‘following the rules’.

Rapidly it became clear that the applicants’ assurances were not worth having.

They claimed to observe the Reduce the Strength campaign on not selling strong beers – but when the shop opened they were selling them, in breach of Condition 15 of the subcommittee’s decision.

They also breached Condition 18 on excessive display of alcohol in the shop – far beyond the five per cent of retail space stipulated.

‘The decision was not appealed’ say the councillors.

I asked about that and had an email from the court saying ‘there is a £410.00 application fee and should you lose the appeal there maybe further court cost’.

It’s a pity the subcommittee didn’t have the courage to do the right thing.

Many people call for a reassessment of this situation.

It is incoherent and stupid and wasteful to spend public money on a new ‘Police Hub’ in Silchester Road to deal with ‘street’ issues and then approve this application.

The area does not need more off-licences.

The council has let us down, again.

Bernard McGinley

Magdalen Road

St Leonards

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