Row erupts over Worthing off-licence plans

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A LICENSING decision in East Worthing has led to a war of words between two councillors.

Back in September, a licence was granted to Offie, in Ham Road, despite opposition from more than 300 residents who signed a petition against the off-licence.

At the time, Tarring Lib Dem councillor Bob Smytherman, who chaired the licensing committee for that meeting, said: “We can’t turn the application down without objections from police, the fire service and environmental health, because if we did the decision would be appealed.”

This led Conservative Selden ward councillor Roger Oakley to send an email to the Herald, in which he said Mr Smytherman was incorrect in law when he made those statements.

Mr Oakley said: “That statement has caused local residents some concern and locals have questioned the comment by Mr Smytherman.

“Namely, if that was the case, what was the purpose of the hearing.

“Believing the statement by Mr Smytherman to be erroneous, I sought advice.

“I am advised the statement made by Mr Smytherman was not correct in law.

“Despite the lack of objections from the police and other agencies, this is no reason to prevent the public from making objections by way of representation and for those objections to be taken into account and acted on by the committee.”

“I can see nothing in the legislation to support the views of Mr Smytherman and everything to suggest that no more weight should be attached to objections by the police than any other person.”

In response to those comments, Mr Smytherman said: “I think the first important thing is I was acting on behalf of the committee of three, which is a Conservative majority.

“So for him to say it’s my opinion that is against the law is simply not true.

“The committee has to balance all the elements of the application, not just those councillor Oakley has put forward.

“The important issue relating to that is there is a presumption in favour of the application when it is not opposed by the police, the fire service and Environmental Health.

“The reason for that is the 2003 Licensing Act, which simplified the legislation and actually gave residents more power and not less.

“Also, if a place breaches its licence, and this can be demonstrated with evidence, local residents and the ward councillor can apply for a review of the licence at any time.”