I was relieved to escape intact after bearing the bad news that the planning system offers very scant protection against this trend, especially when the building already has permission for retail use, as in this case. I was asked to check whether there were any historic conditions on the site. Unfortunately, it appears not - it's been a shop for so long that it drifts back into the mists of time before proper planning restrictions existed. The bottom line is that Sainsburys have all the permissions they need to open their store, though they may well need additional permissions for signage, air conditioning or changes to the rear area.
They do, however, have to get permission to sell alcohol. An application is now in and it doesn't make for great reading. They are wanting permission for 7am to 11pm, seven days a week. The application reference is 11/01124/PREM and the deadline for making objections is 17th June. I was asked at the meeting about how people can object to a licence application, so I will explain in a little detail here to save me having to rewrite it in lots of e-mails.
Anyone who is affected by a licence application can object to it. There are no hard-and-fast rules about this, but it broadly means that you have to live nearby, so perhaps within 500m or so of the premises in question. Most importantly, the objection must refer to one or more of the four so-called 'licensing objectives'. These are:
- the prevention of crime and disorder
- public safety
- the prevention of public nuisance
- the protection of children from harm
One facet that might be worth considering is that there is a Cumulative Impact Zone around the lower end of Whiteladies Road. Under the new policy, premises outside the Zone can be included if you can demonstrate that the negative impact is felt within the Zone. In other words, if a decent case can be made that there will be more public nuisance around the Clifton Down area as a result of Sainsburys on Blackboy Hill, that would strengthen any objection considerably. I'm thinking this one through at the moment.
Your objection needs to be sent to the Council's Licensing Department, quoting the reference number above and most easily by e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. They will decide whether your objection is valid or not - i.e. whether you are affected and whether your objection addresses the licensing objectives. If there is at least one valid objection (as I am sure there will be), the application will be decided through a hearing at the Licensing Committee of councillors, probably in August or September. Anyone who submitted an objection is entitled to attend the hearing and to speak at it, though if there are a lot of objectors attending, a combined statement might be requested.
An interesting parallel to the Sainsburys application is that the Tesco on Stokes Croft was refused an alcohol licence by the Licensing Committee, largely due to the existing street drinking problem there. This is good evidence that the process is not just a formality, though the decision is taken on the law and evidence presented, rather than on the number of objectors. It's also worth noting that Tesco carried on with the store even without an alcohol licence, so it's not necessarily a way of blocking the store.
For me, probably the most worrying part of the Sainsburys licence application is perhaps that it quotes the store opening hours as being 24 hours, seven days a week. This isn't germain to the off licence application (which is for 7am to 11pm), but it would set a very worrying precedent for Whiteladies Road. At the moment, I can't see a particular means of preventing this, but I am also thinking this one through too.