A move by health chiefs in Fife to block a new supermarket’s bid to dedicate more space to alcohol has been knocked back.
NHS Fife lodged a formal objection to Lidl’s application to vary the internal layout of its soon-to-open store in North End Park, Cowdenbeath, to prevent what they called a “creeping increase” in the amount of alcohol available in the town.
But councillors on Fife’s Licensing Board have rejected the health board’s request after describing the objection as “vague” and hearing from Lidl representatives who argued the proposed change should be granted because the store is not open yet.
Paul Madill, a consultant in public health medicine at NHS Fife, has now issued a stark warning to board members after highlighting his fears about an apparent rise in these sorts of applications being granted.
“This is an application for a variation in an area which already has high levels of alcohol-related harm in an area of high deprivation,” he said.
“The Cowdenbeath area has the second highest rate of alcohol-related stays in hospital in Fife and there are 12 outlets selling alcohol within 800 metres of the town centre.
“There have also been 14 similar applications made to the board since December 2018.
“We think there’s a kind of creeping increase going on here, which may not be obvious on a case-by-case basis.”
Calling for the licence to be refused, Mr Madill also took the unprecedented approach of asking board members not to consider any future variations in relation to the applicant.
However, a spokesman for Lidl suggested there could be no “causal link” between alcohol-related harm and the store – because the supermarket is not expected to open until January 25.
“It’s fair to say that the overwhelming majority of the premises will not be dedicated to alcohol display, in fact it is just over 5% of the floor space,” the spokesman added.
“Fife does not have an overprovision policy and Lidl has changed the way their shelving all works. It allows them to have larger stock ranges for everything, not just alcohol.
“This has come about as a retailing change, rather than wanting to do any harm.”
SNP councillor John Docherty described the NHS objection as “vague”, while Conservative councillor Gavin Ellis questioned the health board’s stance as it had not objected to previous applications in certain circumstances.
But Mr Madill said: “If there is an area of high deprivation, high alcohol-related harm and high availability of alcohol, then these are the criteria in which we would bring forward objections.”
Mr Ellis made a motion to grant the variation, seconded by Kirkcaldy Labour councillor Alistair Cameron, and the change was unanimously approved.