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'Breaking point': Police object to Romford Market alcohol licence, insisting 'it is only a matter of time' before officers are seriously hurt

PUBLISHED: 07:00 19 September 2019

80-84 Market Place, formerly known as The Retailery, to be renamed and taken over by Romford based church group. Picture: Havering Council

80-84 Market Place, formerly known as The Retailery, to be renamed and taken over by Romford based church group. Picture: Havering Council

Havering Council

Policing in Romford town centre is at "breaking point" as it is "over stretched and under resourced" according to a startlingly honest objection filed by the Metropolitan Police against an alcohol licence being granted to a premises in Romford Market.

Havering Council's licensing sub-committee will meet on Monday, September 30 at 11am to determine the fate of an application submitted by Kingsheart, a community church which was recently selected as the new operators of 80-84 Market Place - the venue formerly known as The Retailery.

Kingsheart has applied to the council for permission to sell alcohol seven days a week, from noon to 11pm Monday to Saturday, and from noon to 10pm on Sundays.

That application was received on August 15.

In a remarkably forthright letter to the council's licensing team, East Area licensing officer Pc Adam Williams urges the local authority to think twice about granting that licence over fears it would encourage vertical drinking - drinking at venues like pubs and nightclubs where customers are able to stand around consuming alcohol.

In a letter dated August 29, he wrote: "As we are all fully aware the police are already overstretched and under resourced within Romford town centre, adding another licensed venue purely for vertical drinking will not only put the officers at risk but also members of the public.

"As of the writing of this letter, in the last three weeks we have had four officers assaulted in Romford town centre.

"We have seen a noticeable decline in police numbers that are provided to the town centre.

"Some weekends there are only TWO officers for an entire night duty.

"This is a massive issue regarding officer safety and is not only a risk to the officers but also to the members of public that frequent the town centre.

"When Romford town centre has a footfall of over 25,000 people from a Thursday to a Sunday these numbers are just not safe and having another vertical drinking establishment will bring policing in the town centre to breaking point.

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"It will only be a matter of time before one of the officers is seriously hurt or worse."

Havering Council's planning department has also objected to the current version of the application over fears it would make the venue, in effect, another pub.

It also raised concerns that no proposals for CCTV covering the premises were provided, nor were any details of arrangements for door staff, a dispersal policy or any ways in which the venue plans to control potential public nuisance.

An officer does point out, however, that the council's planners "would have no concerns if the premises were to operate as a restaurant where alcohol supplies are ancillary to a table meal".

The officer concludes: "Alternatively we would be happy to consider an operating schedule robust enough to address the supply of alcohol for vertical consumption in this Cumulative Impact Zone.

"Unfortunately, we are unable to support the application in its current form."

In a statement submitted alongside the application, Kingsheart Church says it is actively partnering with Havering Council as part of "the community regeneration of Romford Marketplace".

The statement adds: "The applicant has been working with the London Borough of Havering in an effort to return the premises to use as a valuable community amenity, having sat heavily under-utilised for some time.

"The applicant has been commissioned to operate the premises by the London Borough of Havering as a space where the local community can take part in recreational and business activities.

"The applicants view the premises as a 'hybrid' - not exclusively a restaurant (although snacks and hot meals will be available) and not a public house.

"The hours sought are modest and demonstrate that the premises will not operate as a late night vertical drinking establishment."

And it concludes: "The premises will not be operated as a vertical drinking establishment but will instead offer a relaxed, family friendly environment for a snack, a meal and/or a quiet drink.

"The applicant is fully aware of the licensing objectives and the obligations to promote the same."

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