We recently reported that Bristol City Council was setting up a new Cumulative Impact Area (CIA) on the Gloucester Road. This was welcomed by the Society. It was hoped that it would result in a more disciplined approach to the issuing of alcohol licences and a concomitant reduction in alcohol related crime and anti-social behaviour.
The CIA became operational from August 1st 2010, after which anyone applying for a licence within the designated area was required to demonstrate that it would be in some way beneficial to the area. This contrasts with the previous practice where the onus was on objectors who had to show that the permitted licence would result in an unsafe or harmful situation. The full CIA policy document, ‘Statement of Licensing Policy’, can be found here: http://www.bristol.gov.uk/ccm/content/Business/Licences-and-street-trading/statement-of-licensing-policy---bristol.en
The Gloucester Road CIA runs from a small section of the Cheltenham Road just below the Arches up to Pitt Road and Rudthorpe Road on the Gloucester Road. It also includes a small section of Zetland Road up to the junction with Northumberland Road. A quick count shows there are a total of around 60 to 70 licensed outlets within this area. Roughly calculated, this equates to one alcoholic outlet for every 30 metres. Alcohol is not difficult to obtain!
Just before the CIA policy took effect, two new applications were approved – for the new Sainsbury’s at the Junction with Zetland Road, and for an extension to the licence of the Chimphouse at 232 Gloucester Road. The Bishopston Society made objections to both these, but they were still approved by the licensing committee. Would this have happened if the CIA policy had been in operation?
Since August, we have regularly monitored the licensing applications listed on the Council’s website. There have been three. Of these, the one from a new shop, ‘The Grape and Grind’ (next to the Amnesty Bookshop) is the only one that has so far been granted a licence. The Society raised no objection, on the basis that there was no threat of late night sales and the quality of goods offered would enhance choice in the area. In contrast, there is an application pending for a licence extension at the McColls' store by the Arches. This application, if granted, would extend alcohol sales from 11 pm through to the early hours and is exactly the type of request which gives the Society most concern. We have made a strong written objection to this; acceptance of this application would surely undermine the whole rationale of the CIA policy.
The third application is a puzzling one. It’s from ‘Portico Play’ who have recently moved into the old ‘Venue’ offices on the corner of Overton Road and North Road. This establishment provides a service for pre-school children and their parents/carers. We do not wish to inhibit commercial and communal activity in the area. However, we do not understand why a pre-school facility should feel the need to sell alcohol on the premises. We are attempting to get clarification on this case and meanwhile we have submitted a holding objection.
This last application raises questions about the boundaries of the CIA. Technically ‘Portico Play’ is on North Road which is not included in the CIA. However, being a mere 10 metres from the Gloucester Road, it is arguably an integral part of that commercial scene.
Both nationally and locally, the issue of alcohol licensing has received considerable publicity. It seems to be accepted generally that the excessive liberalisation of recent years needs to be modified. The CIA initiative, while relatively modest, seems sensible and practical – if enforced responsibly. We shall have to wait and see.
[Footnote: we have since received detailed explanation and justification for the application from the owner of 'Portico Play' and are taking this into account.]
Below is a copy of the letter the Society sent to the Bristol City Council Licensing Manager, outlining our objections to the application by McColls for an extension to their alcohol licence:
Reference Application No. 10/04361/PREM McColls, 218 220 Cheltenham Road
Further to my previous letter written on behalf of The Bishopston Society in which I gave notice of our objection to the McColls' application, I would like to make these further points.
As you know and as the police have indicated, one of the main concerns that we and they have in this area is with late night drinking. This is particularly prevalent at weekends in the summer with people returning home from clubs in the city centre in particular. Many of them 'top up' en route and make their way vociferously and aggressively through our roads. Local residents are well used to finding discarded tins and bottles in their front gardens. Motorists are accustomed to torn wing mirrors, panels kicked in and broken windows. Not all of this damage is alcohol related but much of it is. If this application is granted it can only increase the potential for such crime and anti-social behaviour.
It has long been recognised that the Cheltenham Road/Gloucester Road area has reached saturation point in alcoholic outlets. We have between 60 to 70 such outlets in the one mile stretch between the Arches and the Ashley Road This works out at about one for every 30 yards. Within 100 yards of the McColls’ store there are 3 public houses and a dozen or so cafes and fast food outlets with alcoholic licenses. To grant McColls an extension would only add to an already overcrowded alcohol market.
The police have estimated that 20% of crime and disorder in this area is alcohol related and this figure is rising. If this application is permitted it can only lead to an exacerbation of this trend.
It should be emphasised that this is a mainly residential area. Yet an early Sunday morning walk past the shop fronts of the main road and on the side streets is a depressing experience. Bins are overturned, cans discarded, broken glass and waste abound. This behaviour, much of it arising from the drinking of alcohol, is distasteful and unsettling, particularly to elderly people and families with young children. To grant an extension to McCollsexisting license in the light of this deteriorating situation would undoubtedly result in a further downward spiral.
.Beyond these obvious points, the premises in question are within the Cumulative Impact Area (C.I.A.). The setting up of the CIA was supported by the police and by local amenities groups including ourselves. The C.I.A principles clearly state that within the C.I.A there is a prejudice against any further license extensions.
Section 6-3-2 'the effect of adopting a cumulative impact policy of this kind is to create a rebuttable presumption if relevant representations to that effect are received, that applications for new premises licences or club premises certificates or material variations will normally be refused unless it can be demonstrated that the operation of the premises involved will not add to the cumulative impact already being experienced'.
Section 6-3-3 has similar wording.
We do not see how this present application for a licence extension can possibly demonstrate that increased licensing hours will not 'add to the cumulative impact already being experienced.' To grant this application would in our eyes seriously prejudice the possible good benefits which the CIA is intended to bring to this area.