Co-op store approved despite police drink concern

Former premises of Lothian Coated Fabrics in Prestonpans where a new Co-op is planned. Picture: Gordon Fraser

Former premises of Lothian Coated Fabrics in Prestonpans where a new Co-op is planned. Picture: Gordon Fraser

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A NEW supermarket has been given the go-ahead to sell alcohol despite concerns over the number of nearby licensed outlets.

Police and health chiefs had expressed concern of “over-provision” in Prestonpans, East Lothian, as part of part of a bid to open a new Co-operative store in the town.

But the application for a provisional premises licence was granted by East Lothian Council’s Licensing Board after a majority of councillors gave approval.

PC Heather Bowsher said police faced ongoing problems with drunk youths in the town.

She said: “Our concerns are that there are already considerable off-sale premises in Prestonpans – nine in total – and several more on the outskirts.

“Historically, we have had problems in the area with youths and alcohol, and recently we had off-sale premises in Prestonpans fail a test purchase.

“We also had a Co-op this year fail a test purchase, so we have major concerns about another new outlet for the sale of alcohol.

“We have had a least 40 thefts from Co-op stores of alcohol since January this year. The Co-op is one of the high hitters for thefts of alcohol in East Lothian.”

Audrey Junner, agent for Co-operative Group Food Ltd, said the new convenience store would be built on the site of a disused industrial unit in Mid Road.

She said over-provision wasn’t an issue as there were hundreds of new homes in the area.

Ms Junner said: “In terms of over-provision statistics, there has been significant residential development in this area.

“There are 630 new homes many of which weren’t there at the time the board’s policy was devised. The store would cater for those living in the vicinity and commuters using the train station but would draw trade from the existing Co-op store.

“The alcohol purchase in the other Co-op store, the expectation is that some of that spend will move to this store.

“The Co-op does have an excellent reputation and good record in terms of alcohol compliance.”

She explained that the new stores have state-of-the-art CCTV cameras and were risk assessed to see if a steward was needed.

Spirits were kept behind the tills and the Co-op reported everything which happened in its stores.

Councillor Willie Innes said the new store was a controversial planning application which he didn’t support.

He added: “The site is an eyesore and the quicker that site can be developed the better for everyone.

“Locally there is a concern that the new store will impact on other shops in the area, particularly the other Co-op.

“It would be a tragedy if we ended up with an empty site in the middle of our town rather than an empty site on the edge of town but the principle has been conceded.”

newsen@edinburghnews.com