Heated virtual meeting argues Leytonstone off-licence application

An off-licence near Leytonstone Tube station wants permission to sell alcohol until 2am, despite concerns about street drinking.

Waltham Forest Council’s licensing sub-committee met virtually on Wednesday May 20 to discuss the application from 7 Star Traders on Church Lane.

Deputy leader Cllr Clyde Loakes (Lab) and Cllr Marie Pye (Lab), who both represent Leytonstone, said the change would undo the council’s work to curb anti-social behaviour in the area.

The shop’s licensing lawyer, David Dadds, claimed there was no evidence linking the shop to antisocial behaviour and that it did not sell “the preferred drink” of street drinkers.

In a written submission, Cllr Pye wrote: “These premises, who have had their alcohol licence removed in the past for selling counterfeit alcohol and cigarettes as well as to young people, are right in the middle of the area with the highest amount of anti-social behaviour in the ward and possibly one of the hotspots in the borough.”

Cllr Pye said the area had problems with “aggressive begging”, drug dealing, sexual assaults and other criminality “fuelled by alcohol and drugs”, adding that women and parents with children had told her they avoided the area.

She added: “To have a premises open until 2am would just extend this serious problem until the middle of the night.”

In his submission, Cllr Loakes added: “I see absolutely zero reason for this request to be accepted.

“This is nothing more than an attempt to sneak this in whilst people are concerned with more pressing issues and to make money out of the crisis.”

At the meeting he added: “We do not need anything that would start to unpick the hard work and the intense resources we have had to deploy over the past six months to wrestle back control of Church Lane.”

A Waltham Forest Council anti-social behaviour officer who spoke to the committee said she had “personally issued several notices to people who admitted purchasing alcohol in the shop”.

The Church Lane off-licence currently has permission to sell alcohol from 8am until 11pm and hopes to extend these hours from 7am until 2am.

Mr Dadds said that previous concerns about the shop were not relevant but refused to confirm whether the business was still owned by the same family.

He said: “It has been operating for years without any cause for concern. There’s been no complaints since the licence was granted five years ago.

“The police service has not raised any issues or objections to the application and environmental health have not objected.”

He added the owner does not believe the premises “add or contribute to street drinking” because it does not sell “the drink of the street drinker”, namely high-strength beer or cider.

“My client believes he has the support of the community,” Mr Dadds added, “He runs a very successful business and he’s valued in the community.”

After a heated debate, in which Cllr Loakes remarked he was “tired of barristers telling [him] to shut up”, Mr Dadds told the committee it had been “a very unfair hearing” and that his side of questioning was “rushed”.

In closing remarks, delivered after the committee agreed to extend the meeting time beyond three hours, he told chair Cllr Sharon Waldron (Lab, Markhouse): “I do not think I have been treated fairly and you have not intervened to protect me from this criticism of barristers generally.”

He added that crime data suggested there was only around four incidences of street drinking in the area a month and that the only evidence provided at the meeting was “hearsay from two councillors”.

The committee will make its decision on the application by May 27.

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Victoria Munro

Local Democracy Reporter