Local community listened to – but it comes at a costDiane Calvert
In March, the local community (across all ages) rallied together about an application for a Botte store. Many people said its pointless objecting- the best you can hope for is reduced hours. Others said it was just “nimbyism”.
However the community were not deterred. Over 200 people attended a local community meeting at short notice. A petition circulated with over 300 names. In total there were 538 objectors although only 178 were formally approved due to some names and addresses not being legible or objectors outside of a 1km radius. This was unknown territory for many and the process seemed very complicated and pitted against the objector.
I spoke with many people across the community. The general feeling was there was no need for an off-license and especially in the proposed location. It shared an entrance with the local Post shop, and the community noticeboard. It was directly across the road from the Library, pocket park and Plunket rooms. It was within a couple of hundred metres of a creche, local church, other village shops, supermarket and bus stops. The small Village area is a vibrant area frequented by many of all ages. The location already has a local pub, restaurant and supermarket selling wine and beer. Access to alcohol is available in a controlled and open manner. People who were objecting were doing so on the basis of the long term good of the whole community and not for their own personal interests. As a local resident and knowing the area well, I was happy to advocate for them and seek the support of the Mayor and fellow ward Councillor Simon Woolf.
The local village trust- Khandallah Cornerstone, which runs the local town hall, stepped up and led a formal response. While the Council provides the licensing committee administration, it is not the decision maker. Usual forms of council consultation and participation do not apply. The process is dictated by legislation and case law and very much a court type procedure. Legal advice and representation was definitely needed if the community’s voice was to be heard effectively and points of law be addressed. Several locals also did significant research and presented their findings which helped substantiate community concerns.
Cornerstone funded the legal challenge out of the own resources but will need seek help from the community to recover costs. Fundraising details will be released shortly but anyone can make a direct donation to the Trust if they wish.
After a three day hearing in August, the District Licensing committee issued their decision on 8 October 2019. The application was declined.
“we conclude that this new off-licence should not be granted. We consider that if this new off-licence was granted, there would be more than a minor impact on the amenity and good order of the locality. We have also been unable to satisfy ourselves that the applicant is suitable to be granted a new off-licence.”
The decision was very comprehensive and gives a detailed account of submissions and the committee’s views. It is a landmark decision and will benefit other communities facing a similar situation.
We now hope the landlord of the building which is a community charitable trust – Johnsonville Property Trust, takes heed of the local community’s wishes and finds a suitable tenant to complement the village area.
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