Bus station shop wins fight to sell booze – despite police objections

McColls, Park Lane, Sunderland.
McColls, Park Lane, Sunderland.
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SHOP bosses have won their battle with police and transport chiefs over controversial plans to sell booze at one of the country’s busiest bus stations.

Martin McColl, which runs a newsagent’s at the entrance of the Park Lane Transport Interchange, in Sunderland city centre, has been given the go-ahead by councillors to sell alcohol daily between 8am and 8pm.

The move comes despite objections from Northumbria Police, British Transport Police and travel company Nexus.

At a meeting of Sunderland Council’s Licensing Sub-committee, members were told how the area already had “high arrest rates” for antisocial behaviour, public drunkenness and criminal damage.

It had also become a popular hang-out for teenage troublemakers, with residents and businesses regularly complaining of problems caused by “drug use and excessive alcohol consumption”.

Bill Sproat, representing Northumbria Police, said: “This is going to make the problem worse.

“I don’t think the decision to sell alcohol has been made by any of the local people who work in the shop.

“This is a business decision by the company’s head office in Essex.”

Mr Sproat also said that it would be difficult for shop staff to prevent “proxy sales”, where adults are persuaded to buy alcohol for underage drinkers.

“People are being harassed to go into shops to buy alcohol,” he said. “People feel pressurised into buying for kids and there is not much shopkeepers can do about that.”

However, bosses at Martin McColl said they had already agreed to cut proposed selling times and to a series of conditions, including the installation of CCTV cameras and a ban on booze sales on match days.

David Crank, representing Martin McColl, said: “It is always difficult to say what might and might not happen, and it is often an emotive issue.

“We are looking to operate in a way that looks to sensibly and securely arrange the sale of alcohol.

“We have a system in place that would look to do that.”

The centre, which offers local and long-distance services and includes a Tyne and Wear Metro station, is thought to be the second busiest bus station outside London.

“Most of the people who pass through the interchange are orderly, law-abiding people who will not cause any trouble,” said Mr Crank.

Councillors agreed to the revised selling times of 8am to 8pm, refusing a police request of 8am to 6pm, and imposed conditions.

Councillor Doris MacKnight, chairman of the committee, said: “The panel has considered the application, and we will allow 8am to 8pm.

“There is a review programme in place, and it will continue to be looked at.”

Twitter: @SunderlandEcho