City centre store Homemart gets alcohol licence from Wakefield Council under 'most robust conditions in West Yorkshire'

A city centre store has been granted permission to sell alcohol at the second time of asking, despite street-drinking concerns from neighbours and councillors.

Homemart, which opened on Kirkgate in Wakefield in November, was denied a booze licence by the district council before Christmas.

But now store bosses have been given the green light after they promised to insist that any shopper buying alcohol must spend at least £5 on other items, excluding tobacco.

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They claimed the conditions they were volunteering were the most stringent for any West Yorkshire shop.

Homemart opened on Kirkgate in November.

Homemart's nextdoor neighbours, Shooter's Pool Bar, and local councillors for the city centre remained opposed to the plan. But their objections were overruled.

Speaking at a hearing on Tuesday, Homemart's representative Nick Semper said the company had a "proven track record" of running stores responsibly elsewhere in the UK.

The Wakefield store has been allowed to sell alcohol for the last six weeks as a result of a series of temporary licences granted consecutively by the council.

The £5 minimum spend condition has been in place during that time, alongside other rules banning the sale of single cans and dictating that no beer above 6.5 per cent alcohol volume is available.

The store has been selling booze under temporary licences for the last six weeks.

Mr Semper said that during that time, the store had had "zero issues, zero reports, zero attendances and zero interventions from the police or any other responsible authority."

He added: "What anti-social street drinker of limited means is going to purchase £5 of goods that they do not want, each and every time they want to make a purchase of alcohol?"

Mr Semper said that this, coupled with the other rules, made them "the most robust counter street-drinking conditions ever seen in West Yorkshire."

However, objecting to the application, Wakefield North councillor Margaret Isherwood (Labour), said: "I'm here to represent the residents of Wakefield city centre, whose lives have been blighted by anti-social behaviour for years.

Councillor Margaret Isherwood spoke out against the application at Tuesday's hearing.

"The applicant is assuming that when they sell alcohol it's not causing any problems.

"How do they know that? They can't know that. They don't follow people out of the shop to see where they go to drink it or see them perhaps causing trouble."

She also cited the council's cumulative impact zone, which seeks to limit the number of new licensed premises in Wakefield city centre.

The policy dictates that new applicants must demonstrate they will be able to improve the area, otherwise they are likely to be rejected.

The zone was cited by councillors when the first application was rejected in December.

However, Councillor Isherwood said she believed the £5 minimum spend was "not exceptional" and suggested it could easily be circumvented by street drinkers.

She said: "We've got this (cumulative impact) policy for a reason and if we're not going to stick to it I don't see why we should have the policy at all."

However, the panel of three elected members approved the licence.

In the reasons given at the end of the hearing, they said the written contributions of the police, licensing officers and the £5 minimum spend condition had been crucial factors in reaching their decision.

Speaking afterwards, Homemart boss Harika Yedla said: "I am delighted with the result.

"We have no intention to sell to anti-social street drinkers ever. Our only ambition is to be an asset to Wakefield city centre."

Local Democracy Reporting Service