Thursday, 30 September 2010

Supermarket sweep - the onward march of 'Clone Town' Brighton

The onward march of 'Clone Town Britain' took a step forward this week when Morrisons in St James's Street lodged a formal application to sell alcohol from 6am until 11pm, seven days a week.

According to coverage in The Argus, the chair of the local residents' group - the St James's Street LAT - is 'relaxed' about the application, but let's be clear: I'm not.

Along with my fellow Green Party councillors for the ward I've lodged an objection to the plans. Although the big-business-friendly Licensing Act 2003 only allows objections to be raised on the grounds of protecting children from harm, public safety or an increased threat of crime, disorder or noise nuisance, I think the dangers posed by increased availability of cheap supermarket booze round-the-clock reach far more widely.

Of course, Morrisons sits right in the heart of Brighton's so-called 'Cumulative Impact Area' and therefore, given residents' concerns about crime, noise nuisance and disorder, as well as children’s health, the hours extension really shouldn't be allowed, but it's the impact on smaller, local businesses, that really worries me.

Just last week it was reported that the locally-owned Tin Drum pub up the road was closing to make way for an extension of the supermarket next door.

Where will all this end? If Morrisons is granted its extension then Tesco will surely ask for the same thing – and probably be granted that too.

If we are relaxed about this sort of thing we’ll see most pubs closed, and most alcohol sold cheaply, round-the-clock, by supermarket chains: communities like ours will be left to pick up the pieces while our streets lose their distinctive ‘feel’, and the profits, instead of finding their way back into local pockets, are whisked away to shareholders and investors far away in the world’s financial centres.

The sooner the licensing laws are changed to allow local pubs and clubs to protect themselves from this 'supermarket sweep', and councillors to recognise that protecting public health should be a reasonable consideration when looking at new booze permits, the better.

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