Sad to say, the campaign to fight yet another off-licence opening in Westbourne Road has been unsuccessful, after the appeal by Mr Kilic against Islington’s award of a licence failed this week.
Cllr James Kempton and I were among those who gave witness statements in support of the residents’ objections.
In my witness statement, I argued: “This is a residential area, with schools, churches, community centres, a children’s centre and an adventure playground nearby. It is not a suitable area for an increased number of alcohol sales outlets. I find it deeply ironic that as one Government policy has robbed this neighbourhood of its post office, another now allows the flooding of the area with off-licences. This is not an improvement.
“There is growing concern about the impact of alcohol on crime and anti-social behaviour and in making people, particularly young people, vulnerable to crime. The local council, sitting as the licensing authority, should balance the legitimate desire of local businesses to trade with the negative impact of certain trades on the community. In this case, I believe another off-licence in such an over-provided area would be one too far.”
And I was not alone. Residents, councillors, local churches and schools, and other local businesses all expressed their concerns, backed by a large petition.
But to no avail. The Licensing Act makes it almost impossible for councils to refuse licences, unless the police also object, and the court faced the same problem.
As David Trillo of the Ellington Street Residents’ Association (ESRA) puts it, “Everyone knows that the law pertaining to alcohol is counterproductive and until it is changed off licences will continue to be handed out like confetti.”
Meanwhile, the Council has taken action against another off licence, caught persistently making underage alcohol sales. Express Food and Wine in St Peter Street lost its licence after being caught on 4 separate occasions selling booze to under-18s. And that was after having their licence suspended for a month due to previous offences.
This week there have also been calls for a minimum price for alcohol, in response to what researchers call “an epidemic of alcohol-related health and social problems”. The idea is to stop the situation where off-licences undercut each other on booze to get people through the door. Which is exactly what Westbourne Road residents fear will now happen near them.