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Street drinker fears in Chatham High Street as Medway Council denies Fresh Market an alcohol licence

By Dean Kilpatrick, local democracy reporter

A “struggling” business has been prevented from selling alcohol amid fears it would attract more street drinkers to the area.

Fresh Market in Chatham High Street sought a licence for between 8am and 9pm each day – but the proposal was met with opposition by Kent Police, Medway Council’s public health and licensing teams, and support group Turning Point.

The convenience store sits in a cumulative impact policy area, which means new licence applications are to be refused in “all but exceptional circumstances” to help reduce anti-social behaviour in the area.

Concerns over street drinking in Chatham High Street meant Medway Council denied Fresh Market an alcohol licence (12226842)
Concerns over street drinking in Chatham High Street meant Medway Council denied Fresh Market an alcohol licence (12226842)

But owner Khaled Ali pleaded with licensing hearing panel members yesterday to approve the request – insisting he was happy to accept any conditions.

He said: “One reason they say to reject this is that the High Street is going to have more alcohol people around there, but next to me – about 10 shops away – is Iceland which sells everything in there.

“If you provide me with the licence, just for six months – can I just try? After six months, you can review it.

“I’m struggling to survive. This premises had been shut for five or six years, and about six months ago we opened. I’m panicking we’ll be closing this premises again because if I don’t have alcohol I don’t survive.”

Fresh Market in Chatham High Street (12226592)
Fresh Market in Chatham High Street (12226592)

The hearing was addressed by town centre officer PC Simon Ince, who said he still has to deal with street drinkers on a daily basis.

Police licensing officer PC Claire Cossar argued Fresh Market’s licence application lacked information about how it would protect the public from alcohol-related anti-social behaviour.

Mr Ali asked whether not granting him a licence would “solve” the historic issues in Chatham High Street, but she responded by stating progress had been made and a new premises would not help matters.

Public health project co-ordinator Barbara Murray says she saw several incidents of street drinking during a short walk in the area – including a woman walking in the road with her child, and an “intimidating” group on public stairs.

She added: “That is not unusual down there, this is not isolated. I can’t walk around there without seeing at least one person drinking. It’s very, very common.”

A part of the hearing was held behind closed doors to allow members to discuss an ongoing criminal investigation, presumably in the Chatham High Street area.

Delivering the result, chairman Cllr Matt Fearn (Con) said: “We’ve decided, in light of all the evidence presented today, we don’t feel it would be appropriate to grant a licence.

“We feel it would have a negative impact on the High Street and it’s within a CIP area. We won’t be granting a licence today.”

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