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Concerns at 24-hour booze sale plan at garage
A SERVICE station in Walcot will be allowed to sell alcohol 24/7 – despite concerns from police that it could increase drink-fuelled disorder and cause problems for alcoholics.
Vallipuram Thankarajah, the manager of Texaco, in Queens Drive, applied to Swindon Council to vary the premises licence to allow staff at the associated Costcutter shop to sell booze all day, instead of 6am to 10pm, throughout the week.
He also asked to introduce a Challenge 25 policy, where staff must ask for age ID for anyone appearing under 25 before selling booze, and to impose a restriction so the garage could only serve through a hatch between 10pm and 6am, with no public access to the shop.
Wiltshire Police objected, fearing the extra availability of booze could increase crime in an area with at least 61 registered alcoholics, could set back addicts in rehab, and could pose a public safety problem with drunks walking across the forecourt beside a busy road.
However, the council’s licensing panel was unconvinced by the police argument and approved the application, with the extra licence conditions offered by the applicant, including placing waste bins on site and sweeping the forecourt daily.
PC Andy Alexander, a police licensing officer, said: “We’re concerned that giving easier access to alcohol at all times of the day will make it more difficult for us to control [alcohol-fuelled anti-social behaviour and crime].
“We’re led to believe it will also make it more difficult for those who are attempting to aid the local residents with their addictions, places like SWADS (Swindon Wiltshire Alcohol and Drug Service) who are concerned that if they can have easy access at all times it creates more of a problem for them.”
In a submitted letter, Bill Carlton, director of SWADS, wrote: “Our records show a high proportion of service users are resident in this postcode. These service users generally are not the hard-to-reach harmful hazardous drinkers, but dependent and chaotic.
“I believe an extension to this licence would be detrimental to those who have alcohol issues and eventually lead to further alcohol-fuelled anti-social behaviour.”
Roy Light, the lawyer representing Mr Thankarajah, who presented a petition from customers in favour of the change, said: “There’s been no complaints or problems about the premises. We haven’t had any representations from any responsible authorities saying they have had concerns from local residents, and there have been no complaints.
“We have no evidence alcohol has been sold to local people who have gone on to cause alcohol-related crime and disorder.
“The staff at the garage have been there between two and five years, they’re all well trained and refresher-trained. They’re confident they can refuse service to someone if they have been drinking.”