STRONG protests have led councillors to reject a request by a Bognor Regis store to sell booze from 6am.
Morrisons had asked Arun District Council for permission to increase the hours in which customers could buy alcohol from its Bedford Street branch.
It wanted to vary its licence which restricts the sales from 8am until 11pm six days a week and from 10am-10.30pm on Sunday. But Arun’s licensing sub-committee last Friday backed the objections to the two additional hours in the mornings.
Chief Inspector Justin Burtenshaw told the councillors in a statement: “Currently, local off-licences in the area open at 8am causing members of the street community to congregate awaiting opening.”
Allowing Morrisons to sell alcohol at 6am would not only allow alcohol to be available earlier but would also concentrate the problem in an area without CCTV, he said.
Ruth Hambleton, of Bognor Regis Town Council, told the councillors its planning and licensing committee was opposed to the increased availability of wines, spirits and beer.
“Councillors have concerns over alcohol being available to purchase at such an early hour, especially due to where this store is situated in the town centre, out of sight and set back from the rest of the shopping precinct.
“Under the existing opening hours, there are ongoing issues with street drinkers and anti-social behaviour in the public toilets nearby, the car park above and the stairwell.”
Another submission - from Arun’s head of neighbourhoods, Roger Woods - stated: “Negative impacts and issues arising from the activities of individuals forming street communities is a persistent and serious problem for the town centre of Bognor.”
There was a consistent average of the same 20-30 individuals of which eight to ten had been assessed by various agencies as having persistent and entrenched multiple needs.
A main factor in their continuing anti-social behaviour and crimes was a high need for alcohol, he said.
Arun did allow Morrisons to increase their alcohol sales until midnight Monday-Saturday and 10.30pm Sunday.
A Morrisons spokesperson said: “The licensing sub-committee’s decision not to allow our shoppers to buy alcohol from 6am-8am is disappointing as we have a great reputation for being a responsible retailer and we take the sale of alcohol seriously.
“However, customers have told us that they need more time over the busy festive period season to do their shop so we will extend the opening hours to 6am-midnight in the run up to Christmas.”