SAINSBURY’S is set to open its new store on the edge of Morpeth next month.
The news that it is aiming to be ready for March was revealed at a licensing hearing at which the supermarket giant received approval to sell alcohol from 7am to 11pm despite concerns from local residents.
Those who objected to the application regarding the 2,500 sq ft Local shop at the former Black Swan pub in Shields Road said the hours are excessive and would create the potential for some anti-social behaviour and disorder, as well as the build-up of litter outside and along nearby streets.
The company said they were reasonable hours and staff policies and training should prevent the sale of alcohol to under-age people, although independent checks are still carried out. It would also be part of the Morpeth Shopwatch scheme to help prevent any problems just outside the shop.
Originally, it applied to sell alcohol between 6am and midnight, but these hours were changed following discussions with police as officers had concerns.
However, they did not object to the revision and as a result, members of Northumberland County Council’s Licensing Committee agreed to grant Sainsbury’s a licence.
One of the residents against the bid was former town and county councillor David Mash and he spoke at the hearing.
“I don’t agree that the small reduction in hours is a fair compromise,” he said.
“When the pub was running, there was no or very little trouble, but if people can buy alcohol late at night or early in the morning and take it out with them, there could be trouble which would affect residents living in the area.
“For example, young adults could hang around outside the shop and those underage could ask adults to buy alcohol for them. You (the committee) should impose more fair and reasonable hours for the licence, such as 9am to 10pm.
“I’m also disappointed that the police are not here to speak against the application. I spoke to an officer in December who said they had concerns about the 6am to midnight times and I’m surprised that they have accepted the minor changes.”
Sabrina Cader, speaking on behalf of Sainsbury’s, said the company has a number of Local shops in small locations across the country and it has never found that their presence alone has led to crime and disorder.
“As this will be a small convenience store, staff won’t encourage people who buy goods to then hang around the shop and although we’re not responsible for what happens on the streets outside, we can put litter bins next to the entrance and we will make sure all of our premises, including the car park, is kept clean and tidy.
“We ensure that staff are trained in our Think 25 policy, which means they will check the age of anyone buying alcohol who they believe to be under 25, and we use a third party to provide mystery shoppers to check that they are following this policy.
“The store will also be part of the local Shopwatch scheme and the manager will quickly contact police if there is any trouble on the premises or just outside.
“We appreciate that residents do have concerns, but we have submitted a comprehensive application which we believe covers the four licensing objectives.”
The committee attached conditions to the licence and said it will monitor the situation in the future.
After the hearing, Mr Mash said he will not be appealing the decision as he believes it would be a ‘waste of time’.
He added: “Let us hope for the sake of the residents that the sale of alcohol at this location is not detrimental.”