Watton neighbours still worried as Tesco gets ready to extend hours

Worried Watton neighbours have told Tesco 'we will be watching' after the supermarket giant was granted permission to sell alcohol until midnight, seven-days-a-week.

District councillors approved the company's application for a licence from 6am to midnight, Monday to Sunday, which will allow the store to extend its opening times.

Tesco decided to withdraw a request to open for 24-hours-a-day during December ahead of the licensing committee making its decision after hearing a litany of concerns from local people.

Following the meeting, residents who had objected to the application because of fears about anti-social behaviour, drunkenness, and crime said they were disappointed with the decision.

Watton man Keith Hutchinson said: 'It's a case of wait and see now – but we will be watching. We are going to be watching like hawks for any trouble. We will be reporting any issues we see.'

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Tesco had to re-apply for its licence because of an on-going extension to the building which is increasing the size Thetford Road site by 40pc.

There were 44 official objections to the application, many from residents living adjacent to the store who said they had experienced problems including late-night drinking in the car park and litter being thrown in their gardens.

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But following a three-hour hearing at Watton Sports Centre on Friday, Breckland's licensing sub-committee decided Tesco had the necessary procedures in place – and a good enough relationship with local police – to ensure the extra hours did not cause problems in the town.

Committee chairman Ian Sherwood said the supermarket would be expected to keep up its training of staff and strictly adhere to its own 'think 25' scheme when selling alcohol.

He added: 'The sub-committee fervently wishes to see that 80pc of the car park be covered by CCTV cameras.'

During the meeting, Tesco's solicitor Jeremy Clarke, as well as licensing officer Greg Bartley and Watton store manager Neil Davis, sought to re-assure townsfolk that ongoing improvements at the supermarket would not only prevent further issues arising but would also address problems which had occurred in the past.

A start-of-the-art security system, and a newly-appointed night manager to watch the store from 10pm to 7am, would ensure any potential problems were quickly dealt with, he said.

They also stressed that no local authorities – including the police – had registered opposition to the plans.

Objectors said they were disappointed with the lack of support from police and the town council – which failed to respond for a request for more information from Breckland after it initially objected – and feared a low policing presence would mean future problems would not be dealt with.

Inspector Terry Lordan, who is responsible for policing in Watton, said the force saw no evidence to suggest the longer opening hours would cause problems but added: 'I understand people's concerns, but please let me reassure the public that should there be any anti-social behaviour linked to Tesco's extended licence then the local policing team would review the situation and take appropriate action.'

Work on the extension to Watton's Tesco is expected to be completed in October.


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