Fears over anti-social behaviour after discount chain shows interest in Hitchin

A DISCOUNT chain has shown in an interest in opening a new megastore in an out of town location, but there are fears it could encourage street drinking and anti-social behaviour.

The company which owns the 99p Stores and Family Bargains chains, 99p Stores Ltd, has registered its interest in the derelict B&Q store in Hitchin.

It has applied to North Herts District Council (NHDC) for a licence at the site to sell alcohol from 8am in the morning until 11pm at night, seven days a week. But concerns have been raised over the implications this could have.

“I think it’s really worrying to be putting yet more low cost alcohol in a focused position in the town like that,” said NHDC Hitchin councillor Judi Billing.

“There does seem to be a resurgence of anti-social behaviour on a Friday and Saturday night, there have been some awful incidents in the last couple of weeks. I would worry about us doing anything to increase the availability of even cheaper alcohol.”

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Concerns have also been raised by some residents living in Johnson Place, which overlooks the store.

In a joint letter to NHDC, they say: “We are very concerned about the application.

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“Most importantly and worrying is that this is already an anti-social area with litter everywhere and youths causing problems.

“Us residents are entitled to some peace and quiet, particularly after 10pm. We are upset there will be noise and car lights blaring in our windows.”

Hertfordshire Constabulary responded to the application after being consulted by NHDC. Their comments subsequently caused the company to add some conditions to their final application.

These include putting in CCTV where alcohol is on display, having a uniformed security officer on duty on Friday and Saturday nights, and introducing the Challenge 25 ID policy.

The licence application follows a failed attempt by another discount chain, JTF Wholesale Ltd, to secure the premises last summer.

The Family Bargains stores sell similar products to that store, including household goods, gardening products, and food at discount prices.

A spokesman from 99p Stores Limited declined to comment on the application, and wouldn’t be drawn into saying where the company stood with plans for the site.

But the licence application is the only step the company has taken so far in relation to the premises. It has not yet put any planning applications in for the building.

The NHDC licensing and appeals committee will make a decision on the matter next Friday.

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