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Tesco wins alcohol licence for planned Belsize Park store

PUBLISHED: 07:15 20 February 2015 | UPDATED: 10:25 20 February 2015

Community campaigners protest outside the site of the proposed new Tesco in Belsize Park in January. Picture: Polly Hancock

Community campaigners protest outside the site of the proposed new Tesco in Belsize Park in January. Picture: Polly Hancock

Polly Hancock

Supermarket giant Tesco has been given the green light to sell alcohol at a controversial proposed store in Belsize Park.

Members of Camden’s licensing panel last night granted a new premises alcohol licence for the Tesco Express on the former HSBC site on the corner of Haverstock Hill and Belsize Grove.

Emma Thompson backs the swelling campaign against Tesco in Belsize ParkEmma Thompson backs the swelling campaign against Tesco in Belsize Park

As reported in the Ham & High, around 2,000 local residents and traders have signed a petition against Tesco’s plans.

Celebrities including actresses Emma Thompson and Dame Janet Suzman, comedian James Corden and actor Tom Conti, have also backed the petition.

They claim it will destroy the community feel of the high street by driving out much-loved independent shops, cause traffic chaos with its deliveries, increase anti-social behaviour and is not needed when there are already two other Tesco stores nearby.

They had hoped that if Camden refused the alcohol license, the supermarket may then withdraw from the site.

However the licence now gives the store permission to sell booze between 8am to 11pm Monday to Saturday and from 10am to 10:30pm on Sundays.

The panel heard Camden had received 79 written submissions in relation to the licence application, with 78 opposed and one in favour.

They also heard from local residents about concerns that selling alcohol would bring drunken and anti-social behaviour to this peaceful corner of Belsize Park.

Sam Obernik, who lives “a stone’s throw” away from the site, told the panel last night that the new store would be directly opposite the St Mungo’s hostel housing “vulnerable people with challenging co-dependency issues around mental health and substance addiction.”

She said: “The St Mungo’s manager feels it will undermine the good work of his team” and that a store so close to the hostel should not be selling alcohol.

She added: “A high proportion of people live around this site. Any disturbance resulting from early morning or late night deliveries or increased activity from congregating street drinkers and the like will impose on their rights to a peaceful existence in their own homes.”

Councillor Merik Apak also spoke against the application saying: “This part of Haverstock Hill is minutes away from the busy nightlife of Camden towns special policy area and will attract people passing by on their way home who are already drunk, especially in the early hours of Fridays and Saturdays to buy even more alcohol and will encourage street drinking and disorder and antisocial behaviour.”

He said that within 100m of the store there was already a concentration of other premises selling alcohol.

Jeremy Bark, on behalf of Tesco, said the supermarket giant was a responsible operator. He said the Tesco Express was primarily “a convenience store” providing food and other useful products to the local community and was not an off-licence.

“In the context of that alcohol is a small but important part of what we do.”

He said only seven to nine per cent of Tesco Express store sales relate to alcohol and it stocked a specific range to appeal to people who are also buying food.

He said that the store “as a gesture of goodwill” had amended the hours on its alcohol licence application from 6am to 8am.

He also pointed out that no statutory authority objected to the licence.

Licensing panel chairman Thomas Gardiner told the panel that it must concentrate on licensing issues and not complaints over deliveries and other issues including the online petition against the store.

He concluded that public order concerns were not strong enough to refuse the application but that conditions should be imposed

The alcohol licence was granted with conditions which include that the store must not sell single cans of alcohol or any lager, beer or cider above 5.5 per cent proof.

Staff must be trained in the law regarding alcohol sales and underage drinking. A manager must be on site at all times.

Tesco must also hold community meetings with local residents every six months so they can raise any concerns.

CCTV must operate whenever the store is open to the public and the footage be made available to police.

Mr Gardiner said: “I think there clearly is a high level of feeling about the store, much of which we haven’t been able to address because of the licensing process and it is concerning. I hope that if and when the store opens, relations will become better and that the community meetings aids that.”

He said Tesco’s delivery arrangements were beyond the remit of the licensing committee, but said: “I hope all the necessary planning consents have either been or will be obtained. Matters raised tonight which did fall beyond our remit can be addressed during that process.”

Speaking after the meeting, Ms Obernik said the battle was not over and protestors would fight on over parking and delivery arrangements for the new store, such as an application for a new loading bay.

She said: “But we are very disappointed at the way Tesco dismissed our concerns over anti-social behaviour and St Mungo’s residents in particular.

She added: “They were unable to take any of our delivery or other concerns into account. This just goes to show that planning and licensing should be considered as a whole together.”

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