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Decision delayed after Harrow residents speak of ‘immense fear’ over shops 24-hour alcohol plan

A decision on whether to grant a Harrow shop a 24-hour alcohol licence has been delayed. Residents and councillors claim the community don’t want it amidst fears it will increase crime in the area, however, the applicant argued that making alcohol available doesn’t worsen ‘disorder and drunkenness’.

Izzy Food Centre applied to Harrow Council to open a convenience shop with a licence to sell alcohol 24 hours a day, seven days a week, on Kenton Road. The premises is currently under refurbishment and has been closed to the public for the past two years.

Residents had raised concerns specifically about the 24-hour aspect of the licence, which they fear will exacerbate crime and littering in the area. One resident told Harrow Council’s licensing panel that they have already been on the receiving end of antisocial behaviour.

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They said: “I personally have been stopped walking back to my house, potentially being robbed with a knife at hand. […] A cause for concern for me is I have a baby due very soon and I cannot allow my wife to walk around that area at the moment. Crime and disorder would be increased rather than reduced.”

Another suggested there is ‘no need’ for it and claimed the amount of money spent on repairing bus stops due to antisocial behaviour is ‘significant’. They said: “The bus stop on Farrer Road, the amount of times it has been broken and taxpayers’ money has been used to repair it has amounted to more than £30k.”

Local councillors spoke on behalf of residents, urging the application be refused, after receiving more than 250 objections, and Cllr Chetna Halai claims it is the first time they have received so many. She highlighted issues with increased litter and the fear residents have that crime will rise as a result of the licence being granted.

Cllr Halai said: “The community are worried about their children. They’re coming home, it’s dark and people are buying alcohol and hanging around the streets. They are afraid that something’s going to happen to their children, they’re going to be abused or someone is going to try and steal something from them. The fear factor is immense, particularly amongst women, the elderly and young children.”

She claims to have noticed an increase in fly-tipping, which she puts down to late-night drinking that happens after the pubs shut. She added: “Cans are being left on all the side roads, the alleyways. It’s going to create a mess.”

However, a representative for the applicant argued that having a ‘well equipped, pleasantly designed’ shop would ‘only benefit the area’, through the sale of fresh products at competitive prices and that the availability of alcohol will not make the issues worse.

They said: “The availability changes nothing, it’s the affordability and available spend of the perpetrators that changes all. [It] will not cause dozens more misbehaving, drink-dependent people to suddenly descend on this locality.”

The advisor pointed to crime data released by the Home Office over the past seven months as evidence that Harrow is ‘exceptionally safe and low crime’ when compared to similar areas across the country. They also gave residents ‘strong reassurances’ that the 24-hour licence won’t attract street drinkers.

They pointed out to the panel that the decision on whether to grant the licence should be evidence based and not ‘fear and speculation on what might or might not happen’. They said: “There is no listing of disorder, noise complaints, or any other cause for concern evidence involving the shop or applicant.”

The police see no issue with the licence being granted after the applicant agreed to a series of conditions, including a ‘Challenge 25’ policy, staff training, CCTV, and banning the sale of single bottles or cans.

In an effort to reassure residents, the applicant has also agreed to employ a member of staff to be situated outside the premises 24 hours a day to keep order outside the shop, as well as not selling alcohol to already drunk customers and prevent any drinking on site.

The panel stated that it would need more time to assess ‘something of this scale’ and would provide a decision on the application in writing within five working days.

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