Children’s health fears may force rethink on off-licences

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A U-TURN could be on the cards to limit new off-licences in Spalding after a report revealed a link between the number of outlets selling booze and the number of children admitted to hospital with drink-related problems.

But any new policy could come too late to help the town’s children because South Holland District Council’s licensing committee does not have the power to shut down existing off-licences on grounds that there are too many concentrated in one area.

Campaign group Alcohol Concern, One on Every Corner, says in England 35 under 18s are admitted to hospital with alcohol related conditions every single day.

And areas with more outlets have proportionally more children admitted to hospital.

Alcohol Concern chief executive Don Shenker said: “It is a sobering thought that the number of off-licences in any one area has an impact on under 18s drinking and ending up in hospital.

“It is a failing of the system that so many licences are being granted without due consideration to people’s health.”

Our sister paper The Lincolnshire Free Press last week revealed alcohol could soon be on sale at four outlets within a few hundred feet of each other in Spalding’s Westlode Street.

Coun Malcolm Chandler, portfolio holder for licensing, said each application is treated on its merits and there is no policy to dictate how many can open in one area.

He said then: “We do not have a policy on cumulative impact because it is important we remain objective in the way we deal with applications.”

But speaking this week, Coun Chandler said: “In light of that report, I certainly think that we may be looking at the cumulative impact.”

He said it is too early to say whether action will be taken – but any action should be evidence-based.

Coun Chandler said protection of children from harm is one of four licensing objectives and the council will liaise with police and trading standards to see if any steps need to be taken in view of the new report.

He said: “It has never been considered necessary to look at the cumulative impact in this particular area.”

Coun Chandler said the council has always looked at each application on its merits.

When asked if that approach would allow 25 off-licences to open side by side, he said the council had behaved very responsibly in the way it had applied the licensing laws.