Fed up residents and business owners are taking a stand against plans for a third off-licence on West Street – an area they say is already blighted by drunks and antisocial behaviour.
Sheffield Council will decide later this week if the Aslan Go Local shop can sell alcohol on the city centre street.
But nearby residents and businesses owners have reacted angrily to plans for the store to be licensed to sell alcohol from 7am until 3am.
They say the area is already ruined by drunks who have easy access to cheap booze at West Street’s other off-licences.
Although West Street – with its plethora of bars and nightspots – is a popular area of the city for a night out, those complaining claim the problem in fact comes from habitual street drinkers who use the area as a toilet, litter bin, battle ground and place to consume drugs and cheap booze.
Steve Hambleton, of the Sheffield Royal Society for the Blind, which is based just off West Street, said his staff have been verbally abused by drunks – and blind and partially sighted people who use their services feel intimidated walking in the area.
He said: “Residents and people who work in the city centre accept some level of noise. They don’t expect complete peace and tranquillity all of the time.
“The problem is another off-licence with cheap booze attracts an undesirable clientele.
“We’ve made our feelings heard that another off-licence will not help the problem with street drinkers.”
He added: “The problem the police have is responsible drinkers might go out and have a couple of drinks on Devonshire Green.
“The police don’t want to be seen as interfering but they also don’t want the recognised street drinkers to drink outside either.
“If the police approach street drinkers then they can say to the police, ‘They’re doing the same.’
“It’s difficult to police.”
Peter Sephton, chairman of Sheffield City Centre Residents’ Action Group, said the area around West Street and Devonshire Green has become a ‘no-go’ at times.
He says residents have witnessed vagrants slumped in stairwells and have had to call 999 on numerous occasions.
Others have spoken of aggressive and loutish behaviour when they ask street drinkers to move on.
Peter says schoolchildren at nearby Springfield Primary School are regularly subjected to foul language and aggressive behaviour.
SCCRAG has called on Sheffield Council’s licensing committee to postpone the off-licence decision and carry out a Community Impact Assessment on the area.
The council has said it is ‘looking at’ a Community Impact Assessment but cannot suspend the planning application hearing.
Peter said: “There are already two off-licences close to the planned shop plus Tesco and others selling alcohol.
“The amount of cheap alcohol available is contributing to this becoming a no-go area due to the growing problems of street drinkers addicted to booze, prescription drugs and synthetic cannabis known as ‘Spice’.
“The addition of another outlet inevitably competing for business on price is only going to make matters worse.
“There have been many unpleasant experiences for residents and traders caused by the increasingly aggressive nature of people addicted to substances.”
South Yorkshire Police said they had increased patrols in the area.
Howard Norton, manager of the Cobblers and Keys store on West Street, said the area was ‘blighted’ by street drinkers.
The 51-year-old has worked in the shop for eight years and said West Street has ‘got worse’.
He said: “It’s putting off people shopping in the area. We sell men’s shoes and potential customers won’t come in if all they see is people staggering around supping from cans of beer.
“The off-licence really isn’t the main problem for me, it’s the street drinkers dragging the area down. Enough is enough.
“They’ve been shifted from the Town Hall and Peace Gardens area and now they’ve ventured up here.
“ It needs policing better and they need telling that wandering the street with cans in their hand is not on.”
Tina Hilton, 47, is the kitchen manager at The Green Room on Devonshire Green. The bar is against the plans to open another off-licence.
“We don’t need another one, there’s enough already,” she said.
“There’s less fighting and rowdiness but the groups that drinkers hang around in have got a lot bigger and people still use walls near to us as a toilet.
“It does look bad on the area – there’s a lot of students spending their money around here and we don’t want them to get put off.”
Just yards from The Green Room is Syd and Mallory’s Emporium.
The edgy independent store is not immune from the problem of street drinkers.
Co-owner Lucy-Jo Newell, 31, said: “People hang around the back of our shop when we come in and try and park.
“The street drinking problem does get worse in the summer and it’s not nice for the area.
“I’m against the planned off-licence. We have enough already.”
Sam Richard Bailey, general manager of The Cavendish bar on West Street, has also objected to the proposal. He said: “Anti-social behaviour can be witnessed by myself, my team and customers on a daily basis.
“This behaviour includes begging, urination, defecation and aggression.
“I do not believe the addition of another outlet will do anything but encourage this behaviour.”
One couple with a young child who live on nearby Gell Street have also objected to the proposal.
They said: “We are already very concerned about the high number of street drinkers these shops are clearly aimed at.
“A race to the bottom on alcohol prices, aggressive begging, fights, open drug dealing and zero policing exacerbates the problems.
Inspector Neil Mutch, from Sheffield Central Local Policing Team, said: “This is a problem that we are aware of and we are working with our partners to address the issue.
“We have already negotiated with some licenced premises who have adapted their operation policy.
“This includes not selling individual cans of alcohol and raising prices.
“We have already seen some success on the back of this.
“I understand that an objection has been submitted to this latest licencing application and we will support this objection through outlining issues in the area.”
Coun David Barker, chair of Sheffield Council’s licensing committee said: “We are unable to suspend the licensing decision for a new off-licence in the area because we must adhere to licensing laws and time scales.
“The case must go before the committee within 20 days of the formal objections period.
“We understand the concerns of residents in the city centre and we have started the process of looking at a Cumulative Impact Policy in the Devonshire Green, West Street and Division Street area.”