Retailers slam off-sales cap

Edinburgh licensing board consults on overprovision

RETAILERS have slammed proposals to cap the number of off-sales in Edinburgh, claiming it could hit jobs and hamper regeneration in the city.

The licensing board is considering a move to limit the number of licences issued to off-trade outlets, amid claims there could be overprovision across the board area, which currently has 412 off-sales licences.
The proposal comes after a joint report by the board and NHS Lothian and Edinburgh Alcohol and Drug Partnership identified areas with “significant” alcohol-related health, crime and disorder problems. It estimated that 78% of the population aged 18 and over lives within 400 metres of an off-sales.
But retail trade groups say a move to cap the number of off-sales licences could impact on employment and development in the area.
“This will affect new store developments,” said the Scottish Retail Consortium. “A supermarket will want to sell alcohol because customers expect to be able to buy it, but if they can’t get a licence it’s less likely they’ll open new stores. Opening a new store doesn’t mean that customers will buy more products overall, whether it’s alcohol or any other product.”
Scottish Grocers’ Federation chief executive John Drummond said: “We are concerned about Edinburgh’s proposals for overprovision, believing that they are disproportionate and could have a profound and negative impact on the local economy.”
A consultation on the overprovision of off-sales is underway until February 17, with the board aiming to make any changes to its policy statement by the end of this month.
SBPA boss Patrick Browne said the timescale for the consultation is “very limited”. “There’s also a lack of clarity in terms of what they’re intending – although they use the phraseology ‘off-sales’, I don’t think this will be restricted to off-sales,” he said.
Edinburgh board convener Marjorie Thomas said concern about the number of off-sales was first expressed in the policy statement in 2010. “The board now has more detailed information on this subject and is consulting with a number of stakeholders to establish if the approach to licensing off-sales in Edinburgh requires radical overhaul,” she said.