Stores to help fight teen boozing under new rules

Marjorie Thomas

Marjorie Thomas

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SUPERMARKETS will have to set up alcohol awareness groups and aid police in tackling underage drinking to be granted licences under strict new guidelines.

All new off-sales stores in Edinburgh will have to commit themselves to a range of measures as part of a social responsibility clause added to the application process.

Licensing leaders said the measure would add “bite” to the way alcohol licences are currently handed out.

The move came after councillors approved a near-blanket ban on granting any additional applications, citing “over- provision” across the Capital.

Community Alcohol Partnerships (CAPs) would be established and funded by chains such as Tesco and Sainsbury’s, bringing police, licensing officers, and residents together to combat specific local problems.

Along with “soft” measures, such as setting up football matches between teenagers and police, tactics could include identifying problem youths in the area and identifying adults buying alcohol for children.

The move follows the Scottish Government’s decision to freeze plans for a “social responsibility levy” – where all businesses that sell alcohol pay a fee towards tackling crime, improving health and preventing public nuisance – until 2015.

Supermarket chains already operate the groups in England but Rosyth in Fife is currently the only place in Scotland using CAPs.

The new guidelines are likely to favour applications from large supermarket chains, which have the resources and experience to operate CAPs, although the industry body the Wine and Spirit Trade Association said smaller retailers in England had signed up to groups already in operation.

Robert Millar, depute clerk to the licensing board, said the setting up of groups to help teenagers with little else to do but drink in the streets was a tried-and-tested measure.

He said: “Many of the big supermarket groups are already very involved in these alcohol partnerships, so it’s not a major barrier to a licence.

“Indeed the new Sainsbury’s on Inglis Green Road even presented a huge document demonstrating their work in CAPs, without our asking for it, so it shows there is a willingness to take part in these programmes.

Aileen Keyes, policy and campaigns manager at the Wine and Spirit Trade Association, said CAPs were a “proven and effective solution, developed to reduce alcohol-related crime and antisocial behaviour.”

However, she said the decision on over-provision, regarded as a presumption against any new off-sales, would damage the trade.

Councillor Marjorie Thomas, convener of the licensing board which proposed the new guidelines, adopted this week, said: “Adding this clause to the licensing objectives will give our guidelines more bite. Health and social responsibility has gone up the agenda and this will ensure it stays there.”

Making gains

THE establishment of community alcohol partnerships is relatively new in Scotland, but has been likened to “planning gain” in the local government planning process.

As with that premise, the introduction of a project beneficial to the community is made in exchange for permission being granted.

Among the most prominent recent examples is the city council’s “tram clause”, which saw developers charged to build within 750 yards of the new tram line.

The Leith Ports plans for nine “urban villages” in 2010, saw tram bosses demand £29 million towards the project.

They also asked for £34.8m towards essential transport upgrades. The villages are yet to be built, although the tram is not expected to reach Leith until after 2025.