NHSFife’s unprecedented objection over M&S and Iceland booze licences

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NHS Fife has raised objections for the first time ever over off-licences being granted to two new businesses at the heart of a major Glenrothes development.

Iceland and Marks and Spencer’s applied to sell drink in their new stores due to open on the site of the former CISWO in Glenrothes, in a development called The Henge Retail Park.

In an unprecedented move, the health board formally objected.

There is currently an ongoing consultation to restrict new off-licences in Kirkcaldy, Cowdenbeath and Levenmouth for the next five years due to data which links poverty and over consumption of alcohol, with the number of off-licences in the area.

Representatives from NHS Fife said Glenrothes already has an “over provision” of off-licence premises, which it asked to be included in the consultation, but was refused by the local area committee.

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Claire Campbell of NHS Fife said: “One of our objectives is to protect and improve public health.

“There is an over provision of off-sales already in Glenrothes.

“The two shops in the same locality would expand the provision in this area, further increasing the already above average rates in Glenrothes of alcohol related hospital admissions and deaths.”

Both companies objectedn, saying that there was no proof that there was a specific link between stores such as themselves and alcohol related health issues raised.

Iceland’s solicitor, Caroline Louden, said: “Alcohol only accounts for 3.5% of sales in our stores across the country. Within that, 60% of those sales are wine, not the high proof, low cost alcohols that are linked with these issues.

“This new store will be a destination venue that we don’t believe will lead to an over provision.

“Further, the generic objection letter we received failed to create any link between the heath statistics presented and Iceland stores.”

Christopher Greer, Marks and Spencer’s representative, echoed this sentiment, saying: “There isn’t a restriction on off-licensing to currently overcome in this area. I recognise that there is a consultation underway, but Glenrothes isn’t one of the three areas included in that.

“Again, we received a very generic objection letter that provided no causational link to alcohol related health issues and Marks and Spencer’s.

“Just 10% of our sales comes from alcohol, with wine being the main seller.

“I would point out that the opening of this store will create 50 new jobs in this area. We believe that helps to impact a positively on public health and raise standards by creating jobs.”

Ms Campbell said that the generic nature of the letters was to highlight the general link between the number of licensed premises and the increase of alcohol related health issues – not to single out one particular shop or company.

Ms Campbell added: “A recent report showed that around three quarters of people in Fife say they buy most of their alcohol at an off-licence premises.”

Cllr Alistair Cameron asked why the NHS has objected now due to their being no previous licence objections from the health service.

Ms Campbell said it was due to the new data available which showed a direct link between a high number of off-licence shops in low poverty areas leading to an above average number of alcohol related hospital admittance and deaths.

But Mr Greer objected, adding that Marks and Spencer’s weren’t a brand associated with “bulk buying or high proof alcohol for low prices”.

Cllr Ryan Smart asked if the current Iceland store in the Kingdom Centre would be replaced when the new one opens less than 400m away.

Iceland’s Darren Gardner said: “The new store will not be replacing anything. It is a new concept from what we currently have.”

The board agreed to grant licences for both premises.