‘The last straw’: Hornchurch newsagents awarded alcohol licence despite residents’ objections

Park Lane News in Park Lane, Hornchurch, has applied for an alcohol licence. Picture: Google Maps

Park Lane News in Park Lane, Hornchurch, has applied for an alcohol licence. Picture: Google Maps - Credit: Archant

A Hornchurch newsagents’ controversial alcohol licence has been approved, meaning three off-licences will now operate on a parade of just 15 shops despite residents’ objections.

Park Lane News at 65 Park Lane had applied for a licence to sell alcohol between the hours of 8am and 10pm every day of the week - although during a licensing hearing at Havering Town Hall on Tuesday, August 5, this was revised to between 10am and 8pm.

That concession, alongside a number of other conditions, saw the shop granted permission to sell alcohol.

Other conditions imposed included that no beer stronger than 6pc alcohol could be sold, and all beer must be sold in packs no smaller than 4.

CCTV should also be kept for 31 days, and must be of a high enough quality that the police or council would be able to use it as evidence in the event of any criminal behaviour occuring inside or outside the shop.

The shop must also clearly display contact details, such as an email address or telephone number, that will allow residents to make complaints about anti-social behaviour linked to the shop.

In an impassioned plea to the committee before the decision was reached, urging it not to grant the alcohol licence, one resident who has lived nearby for 45 years said another off-licence opening would see long-suffering residents abandon the area.

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She said: "I really hope that this application is rejected because it just feels like the last straw.

"If this is approved it feels like we might as well be giving up and moving quite honestly."

She added: "I'm here because I care about the local community and I am worried about its safety.

"It has got worse over time since the last off-licence opened - the off-licence on the corner has had fireworks put through his letterbox.

"I'm very worried that there is going to be more alcohol in the area. It's very distressing."

Another resident pointed to recent photos of masked children loitering around the parade of shops, and argued that yet another shop selling alcohol in the vicinity would create "a huge risk to public safety".

She added: "We do not want another off-licence. Honestly, what message are [Havering Council] trying to convey?"

The shop's owner and proprietor, Marites Senior, registered the application on June 20 this year after taking over the premises on May 24.

According to her application she has previously owned an off-licence in Darlington.

Speaking on her behalf, licensing lawyer Winston Brown pointed out that not one objection had been made suggesting Ms Senior would not be a responsible licence holder.

He also pointed out that although he understood concerns about anti-social behaviour on the parade, these were historical, and that as the area did not fall within a cumulative impact zone the pre-existence of such behaviour could not be held against the new application.

Mr Brown said: "It is important that my client's application is not held to ransom by the social ills within the community."

The hearing heard that no authorities - the police, London Fire Brigade, council departments etc. - had objected to the application.

An officer from Havering's licensing team told the committee the application had been properly submitted, providing all the necessary information and evidence.

He said: "There is no suggestion the applicant has behaved anything other than lawfully which is why we have not objected."

As the hearing drew to a close following the granting of the licence, chairwoman Philippa Crowder issued the newsagent with some words of advice.

She said: "Obviously, you are new to the area and we want to think about your safety, and we also want to protect the community.

"The reason that we have granted you this licence is because you are outside the cumulative impact zone.

"If you were inside the cumulative impact zone then we would have refused it.

"I suggest that you become a member of the Neighbourhood Watch, and that you work with the residents who live local to you.

"That will help to alleviate a lot of the anti-social behaviour that's already happening within the area."