This Sunderland petrol station is going to open its doors for late-night sales after scrapping ‘night hatch’ service
A petrol station has won a bid to open its doors for late night sales despite police fears that crime could increase.
The Foxcover Service Station, in Durham Road, Sunderland, is currently open 24 hours.
However, under its current licence, it is only allowed to serve customers through a security night pay window between 10pm and 6am.
The changes follow improved CCTV at the store alongside plans to increase the number of staff working on night shift.
But Northumbria Police objected to the plans, raising fears about increased levels of alcohol-related disorder.
This included anti-social behaviour in the wider area and potential conflict between shop staff and customers who are refused alcohol.
This week, (February 1) the council’s Licensing Sub-Committee held a hearing at Sunderland Civic Centre to decide the application.
Councillors heard the petrol station was a “commuter stop” with many taxi drivers and night workers visiting due to its distance to the A19.
The changes aimed to increase freedom of choice for customers, reduce queues and boost business at the site.
And following a risk assessment, petrol station bosses also agreed to provide extra training around “conflict management” and a electronic door which can be locked by staff.
While police praised the store’s management and record – which included no recorded crimes on site – they said binning the night hatch could create issues.
Police solicitor, Hayley Hobb, said the only way to prevent incidents was to keep the “physical barrier that stops people getting onto the licensed premises.”
Inspector Marie Pollock added that other city petrol stations without a night hatch had suffered alcohol-related crimes.
“I believe the hatch supports what you’re doing and that’s why I’m making the objection,” she said.
“We have members of staff who are trained in conflict management and it’s a good thing but I’m still not convinced that it’s sufficient enough to protect yourselves and anybody else that’s present in that premises.”
The meeting heard that anti-social behaviour was on the rise in the wider area, with hotspots including Silksworth, Thorney Close and Farringdon.
Solicitor for the applicant, Matt Foster, said: “Our customers are very different from the customers, for example, in the Esso service station.
“To simply suggest that because we’re now open on a night people are going to, instead of using the Esso garage, drive out 3.7 miles and back is preposterous.”
He added: “If it doesn’t work, we will stop serving in that way and operating through the night hatch.
“It’s important for us as an operator to look after our employees, we have long-standing employees who are loyal to us and we’re concerned about.
“That’s why we have carried out training and risk assessments and operate professionally across a number of sites.”
Following discussion, the committee backed the application.
Coun Peter Gibson, reading the verdict, said: “The committee have decided to agree to the conditions for the ‘non-use’ of the hatch for 24 hours.
“We note, on the bundle that has been submitted by the applicants, that if there is only one member of staff present then the hatch will operate and we insist that that is so.”
Conditions include two members of staff working on night shift with the changes rolled out on weekdays initially.
The plans are also expected to create another two jobs for the petrol station – which currently employs eight people.
Chris Binding , Local Democracy Reporting Service