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Councillors refuse to grant alcohol licence and signal halt to new shops selling alcohol in Chatham, over fears they increase domestic violence

By Lizzie Massey

Councillors have signalled a halt to the number of new shops selling alcohol in Chatham, over fears it could further encourage street drinking, be harmful to local children and even increase domestic violence.

A corner shop has been refused an alcohol licence over fears it could further encourage street drinking, be harmful to local children and even increase domestic violence.

The decision to ban JAJ Your Local Choice, which is due to open in Ordnance Street, Chatham, from selling drink was made after a licensing hearing was told there are 93 places within 1km which sell alcohol.

Domestic abuse reports are often reported to police. Thinkstock image

Barbara Murray, of Medway Council’s public health directorate, told the council’s licensing panel that an additional shop where people could buy alcohol would compound the problem of drinking in the area.

She said: “This is a very deprived area. It houses 3% of Medway’s population, yet accounts for 15% of all Medway’s domestic violence incidents.

“More than half of domestic violence incidences are alcohol-related. It’s also proven that the number of licensed outlets in an area increased the number of domestic violence incidents.”

Of the other places selling alcohol within 1km, 40 are other off-licences – and 28 within 0.5km.

Owner Shan Sabesan also has a similar premises a few doors down on the same street – News Fayre – which is much smaller but does sell alcohol.

His barrister, Leon Glenister, said the father-of-two was planning to have both shops open initially, and reassess whether to keep the smaller one open depending on JAJ’s success.

The site of the new JAJ Your Local Choice store in Ordnance Street, Chatham

Mr Sabesan, who runs the shop with his wife, said during the hearing that he was a respectable businessman who also holds down a job as a manager at a Tesco Express.

He pledged not to advertise alcohol in the shop window, or sell alcohol to anybody he suspected to be drunk, or under the age of 25.

Litter was also raised as a concern. Ms Murray found around 400 empty alcohol cans and bottle on the paths and roads within five minute’s walk of the shops.

Two alleyways near the shops were found to be the among the worst places for litter in the area, after Chatham’s rail and bus stations. She said another alcohol outlet would have a cumulative impact on litter and the number of people drinking in the street.

Ms Murray added that “there are no meaningful conditions that could be put on this application” to make it acceptable to the public health directorate.

Panel chairman Cllr Diane Chambers confirmed that the licence was refused.

News Fayre, 5, Ordnance Street, Chatham.

Violence rise

This week, the police watchdog for England and Wales found that forces were at a very real risk of being “overwhelmed” by a surge in reports of domestic violence.

A report from Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary found a 31%rise in the number of incidents recorded by police over an 18-month period.

It said this had led to “excessive” workloads and affected the quality and speed of investigations in some forces.

School worry

Despite being an alcohol controlled zone, according to Medway Council’s public health directorate, people are frequently seen drinking on the street, and the benches outside News Fayre are notorious as a gathering point for alcoholics.

Mr Sabesan has had problems with shoplifting from the group before, and they are now banned from both his stores.

He had a panic button installed in his shop after an incident where a drunk person threatened his staff.

The application caused a number of people to write to the council in objection, with anti-social behaviour being a huge concern. During the meeting Cllrs Barry Kemp and Dan McDonald raised concerns over impressionable children at St John’s CE Infant School being exposed to more daytime drinkers with the additional sales from a second shop.

Figures gathered by public health showed that in the past four years, 14 under-18s have been taken into A&E for alcohol poisoning in this area, which counts of more than 11% of all cases in the Towns.

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