Forum to challenge Eric Milligan over booze stance

Eric Milligan is being urged to take a tougher stance on licences. Picture: Alan Rennie
Eric Milligan is being urged to take a tougher stance on licences. Picture: Alan Rennie
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community representatives are set to take on city licensing boss Eric Milligan over his opposition to a tougher stance on ever-increasing numbers of premises selling alcohol.

Members of the city’s licensing forum – officially tasked with giving advice on liquor policy in the Capital – want a clearer line on turning down applications for new licences where there is already over-provision.

Earlier this year, the licensing board, chaired by Councillor Milligan, caused controversy by approving off-sales licences for two supermarkets in the same street at Tollcross despite objections from police and NHS Lothian.

And Cllr Milligan has controversially claimed there is “no direct connection” between the growth of licensed outlets and levels of antisocial behaviour.

Forum members are now planning to raise the issue when they meet the board in a few weeks.

One source said: “There is a lot of frustration with Eric Milligan’s attitude, but no-one likes to stand up to him in the licensing board.”

The latest move comes just days after the Evening News revealed a complaint had been made to the standards watchdog against Cllr Milligan, alleging a “bullying” approach during a meeting with two campaigners who were pressing for a harder line on overprovision. He has insisted he did not bully anyone.

Chris Wigglesworth, secretary of Tollcross community council and a residents’ rep on the licensing forum, said over-provision would be the main topic of discussion when they met the board.

He said: “We are asking them to look again at the over-provision policy.

“The forum is all agreed there is too much alcohol on sale and the supermarkets are getting away with what they want.”

The board’s official policy on over-provision identifies seven areas in the city where there are “serious or special concern” and where applications will be carefully considered on merit.

The districts highlighted are Tollcross, Dalry and Fountainbridge, Southside and Canongate, Old Town and Leith Street, South Leith, Leith Docks, and Portobello.

But Mr Wigglesworth said there seemed to be a reluctance to refuse licences for fear of the decision being overturned on appeal.

He said: “Other licensing boards in Scotland have tried to set limits and supermarkets have not won all their appeals. But Edinburgh seems nervous about it.”

Sam Piacentini, who represents the City Centre and Leith on the forum, said there was a “serious” over-provision issue.

He said: “We want a vibrant city with a continental aspect, which includes alcohol on sale, but that has to be controlled.

“As we are a Festival city we have been very relaxed on the issue, which is fine – provided it is not to the detriment of the city in the longer term.”

And he said planners should take licensing issues into account when approving new developments.

“It’s important the planning department works in harmony with the policy of the licensing board.”

ian.swanson@edinburghnews.com